Category Archives: “bias makes you stupid”

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. Continue reading

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Father’s Day Morning Warm-Up, 6/17/18: More On The Horowitz Report

Happy Father’s Day, fathers!

(What a shame you all belong to a gender that is such an inferior, toxic, useless and exploitative feature of society!)

I’m sorry that yesterday was so light on content here; I was occupied from early morn to late afternoon at a distant funeral (more on that in a later post), and then sufficient fried after  I arrived home that I couldn’t brink myself to post….especially since virtually nobody reads the blog after about noon on summer Saturdays. And now I am hopelessly backed up…

1. “Trust us because you need to…Ann Althouse made what I consider a perceptive, cynical and provocative observation related to the Inspector General’s report on the Clinton email investigation. She wrote in part,

FBI Attorney 2 was asked what he meant by that “Viva le resistance,” and he said:

“So, this is in reference to an ongoing subject. And then following that, like I interpreted [FBI Attorney 1’s] comment to me as being, you know, just her and I [sic] socially and as friends discussing our particular political views, to which I see that as more of a joking inquiry from her. It’s not something along the lines of where I’m not committed to the U.S. Government. I obviously am and, you know, work to do my job very well and to continue to, to work in that capacity. It’s just the, the lines bled through here just in terms of, of my personal, political view in terms of, of what particular preference I have. But, but that doesn’t have any, any leaning on the way that I, I maintain myself as a professional in the FBI.”

Obviously, he’s just asserting what he must (and what the Executive Summary will also assert) that he has political opinions but they don’t bleed into his work because he is a professional…….It really is a convention to believe that people can do that. You can be cynical or skeptical or just plain realistic and think that’s not how human minds function, but it’s a fiction we actually do need to believe in (at least up to a point) if we are going to put human beings in a position of trust.

The IG said that it showed “extremely poor judgment and a gross lack of professionalism” to use the FBI’s systems and devices to send these messages, because “It is essential that the public have confidence that the work of the FBI is done without bias or appearance of partiality, and that those engaged in it follow the facts and law wherever they may lead and without any agenda or desired result other than to see that justice is done.”

Perhaps in the interest in maintaining what is “essential,” the IG “found no documentary or testimonial evidence directly connecting the political views these employees expressed in their text messages and instant messages to the specific Midyear investigative decisions.” I notice the words “directly” and “no documentary or testimonial evidence.” You can read the report yourself and see the basis for inference and suspicion, but you’re on your own. There’s plenty of evidence that does shake our confidence that the FBI does its work without bias and without any agenda or desired result. But — the IG encourages us to think — it’s also possible to maintain your confidence, so why don’t you do that? Because your confidence is essential!

This is, however, why government employees are forbidden by law to engage in conduct that creates “the appearance of impropriety.” These exchanges obviously did that. Some one like “Attorney 2” can claim that the fact that he hated Trump and supported Hillary had no effect on his required fair and objective performance of the job, but we are asked to believe that on faith. We hear the same thing from defenders of the blatantly biased news media: true, they are 95% Democrats, but they’re professionals! Nay, there’s no bias there! This would be easier to believe if the actual reporting didn’t seem so positive in the direction of those they are biased for, and so negative when dealing with those they are biased against.

Ann calls the presumption of professional objectivity a “convention,” which is another way of saying “myth.” Continue reading

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Ethics Dilemma: What Can Be Done About People Like This? [Poll Included]

Hold on to your skulls…

Social media can spread stupidity like a viral plague. Is there anything  ethical and constitutional  that can be done to protect the imperiled children addled  mothers like this may raise?

[Related Ethics Alarms posts here (feeding kittens a vegan diet) and here (dogs).]

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/15/18: Spin Wars (Part I)

Good Morning…

…from a galaxy not nearly far enough away…

1. Quick takes on a remarkable 51 minutes on the White House lawn. I just, and I mean just, finished watching President Trump’s spontaneous press conference on the White House lawn, standing within easy spitting distance—brave, given how much so many of these people detest him—of a pack of reporters as Fox’s Baby Doocy held a microphone for him, and picking questions, often hostile, out of the cacophony. Has any previous President done something like this? I’ve never seen such a thing.

If you can’t admire this performance, your anti-Trump virus is raging out of control. I miss the reflex, knee-jerk Democrats and progressives who have, I hope temporarily, taken a hiatus from Ethics Alarms because, in my assessment, they no longer can muster credible defenses of the way this President has been treated by the news media and the resistance, so they have retreated to the warm cocoon of the left-wing echo chamber. Trump’s appearance this morning as well as the Inspector General’s report on the Clinton email investigation are integrity tests. I’d like to think the otherwise intelligent and analytical progressives here would pass them. Ducking the challenge is not a good sign.

Of course, Trump was Trump. As I wrote long ago, constantly harping on what we all know is wrong with Trump is boring and pointless. (See: The Julie Principle) He exaggerated. He spoke in infuriatingly inexact and colloquial word clouds. He celebrated himself and pronounced himself brilliant. I know, I know: if his very existence in the universe is offensive to you, then this performance would be painful. (When Donald Trump isn’t the elected President of the United States, his existence  will probably be offensive to me once again, just as as it was right up to November 8, 2016.) However, the fact is that President Trump showed mastery of the situation. He managed the chaos and maintained his dignity while a generally angry and adversarial mob was shouting at him and interrupting him. I run interactive seminars with lawyers for a living, and I am qualified to say this: what he did is difficult, and he handled it very, very well. Anyone who watches those 51 minutes and refuses to say, “Well, he’s not senile, demented, unstable, dumb or teetering on the brink of madness, I’ve got to give him that much”  had disqualified themselves as a credible Trump critic. He was in command, quick, calm, and in his own way, masterful.

The response of the anti-Trump news media will be to “factcheck” him. He said, for example, that the IG report “exonerated” him, as the pack screamed, “But the report doesn’t discuss the Russian investigation at all!”  This is the old, dishonest and so boring, “Trump is lying when he expresses his feelings and impressions in the cloudy, semi-inarticulate imprecision that he always speaks in, which we will pretend isn’t what we already know it to be.” Of course the report doesn’t formally or actually exonerate him. It does,  in his view (and mine), show a corrupt and untrustworthy culture in the FBI and the Obama Justice Department that treated the Clinton investigation in exactly the opposite fashion that they have used to investigate him. This means, to Trump, that the Mueller investigation is a political hit job, and he regards that as the equivalent of exoneration. Well, he can regard it as cheesecake, if he chooses. His opinion is not “a lie.” (I am being sued, you may recall, by an Ethics Alarms commenter who maintains in his complaint that opinions are lies, so I am rather sensitive on this point.)

Several of Trump’s responses were succinct and effective, as well as infuriating to the anti-Trump journalists, I’m sure. He said that President Obama lost the Crimea when he refused to enforce his own “red line,” thus destroying his credibility and causing Putin to correctly assume that he could move on the Ukraine without consequences. True. He said that he was not worried that Michael Cohen would cooperate with the Mueller investigation, because he, the President, had done nothing wrong. (Headlines like “Will Cohen flip on Trump?” over the last few days imply that there is something to flip about, because the Left, “the resistance,” the news media and those AWOL Ethics Alarms readers have assumed from the beginning that Trump is guilty of some dire and impeachable conduct. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/14/18: Derangement!

Goooooood morning Vietnam!

(Well, not just Vietnam, of course, but did you know Ethics Alarms has had 643 views from Vietnam in 2018, and three already this morning? I wonder how many of those readers suffer from anti-Trump derangement…)

Prelude: I would prefer not to let this topic dominate a Warm-Up, but the alternative is to keep posting on it separately, and then I would get more of those “why do you keep posting about this when children are being taken out of the arms of their mothers at the border?” messages. I post about it for the same reason I began posting on it two Novembers ago, and for the same reason 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck is one of the fattest tags on the blog: the organized, multi-institution hysteria focused on the elected President is unprecedented, destructive, dangerously divisive and threat to the stability of the nation and our communities. Moreover, it is getting worse, more shrill, and to my eye and ear, more desperate, as President Trump’s successes, much as the new media and “the resistance” denies them, increasingly makes the Angry Left and Hillary Bitter-Enders realize that all their protesting and screaming at the sky and biased news stories and leaks and unethical investigations not only aren’t working, but are, in fact, increasing support for the President and public distrust of his sworn destructors. As proof of further lack of hinges, the Deranged think the rational response to this is to become more shrill and more obnoxious.

Unrelated but still annoying note: On HLN just now, after Lovely Robin Meade reported on a Norwegian study that purports to prove that “we is getting dummer,” with an estimated 7 point drop in average IQ since the 1970s, her sidekick Jennifer Westhoven noted off camera that all 730,000 test subjects were all men, in a tone clearly designed to suggest, “so that explains it.” Then the two women laughed like the witches in “MacBeth.” See the recent post on this phenomenon, and reflect. Then imagine if an on-air personality had said “blacks,” “Norwegians” or even “women” in the same context. I’m not accepting such jokes as amusing or acceptable from people who won’t accept the same kind of jokes from me.

1.  It’s time to break out the surgical masks and gloves, I fear. Ann Althouse found this comment on generic New Your Times Trump-hater Frank Bruni’s column, “How to Lose the Midterms and Re-elect Trump,” which begins

“Dear Robert De Niro, Samantha Bee and other Trump haters: I get that you’re angry. I’m angry, too. But anger isn’t a strategy. Sometimes it’s a trap. When you find yourself spewing four-letter words, you’ve fallen into it. You’ve chosen cheap theatrics over the long game, catharsis over cunning.”

The rant was the most popular of the many responses it received from on-line Times readers:

“What are we supposed to do? Speak calmly while he’s praising neo-Nazis? Wag our finger when he walls us in? Abide his ignorance and hate with good grace? Tsk tsk when he embraces murderers and war criminals while berating honorable Democrats? We’re not going to win over the deplorable nincompoops who voted for this man. Do you honestly think that we will offend their delicate sensibilities? These are the people who witnessed the vilest displays of hate, including his encouragement of skinheads to beat up protesters. They heard him brag about groping unwilling starlets. They watched as he mocked a disabled reporter. And yet they went into voting booths all across America and pulled the lever for this narcissistic, unread, vulgar excuse for a human being. Robert De Niro expressed openly the disgust that I have been feeling in my den, sitting in front of the TV and pretty much yelling the same sorts of things when I encounter the daily outrages that ooze from this pustule of a president. Who’s to say that Democrats aren’t scoring victories because of the palpable feeling of disgust that attends this so-called president’s every utterance? This man body-surfed into the White House on a wave of resentment and hate. Maybe a bigger wave of righteous anger will flush him and his Republican enablers out, and down into the metaphorical swamp from which they came.”

Althouse’s readers are almost unanimous in pronouncing this as the Trump Derangement equivalent of your neighbor vomiting black blood into the street. The comment is an impressive compendium of resistance talking points, distortions, and hysteria, culminating in endorsing a vulgar jerk shouting “fuck” at a non-political award show. What are you supposed to do? Oh, by all means, shouting “fuck” and “cunt” are the best options. How about being a responsible citizen, engaging in civil civic discourse based on substance rather than emotion, and respecting your fellow citizens when they have different opinions than you do? Despite the fact that Althouse is a centrist, her commenters overwhelmingly see the folly of the Trump Derangement strategy. One writes, Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2018: Everybody’s A Critic!

Good morning!

(That almost came out “good monging”…not a propitious sign)

1.  Diversity ethics:  The concept that somehow there are sinister motives and undesirable results any time an occupation settles into a demographic mix that isn’t four-square with that of the general population is one more bit of ideological cant. In London, U.K, the mayor has decreed it a crisis that the population using bicycles is disproportionately white, and has  said he is considering setting diversity targets for London’s cycling population to ensure that “progress was achieved.” I liked Amy Alkon’s disgusted reaction to this whole issue, as she asked how  gender equality would be achieved in fields where women show little interest in participating for a variety of reasons, including a greater interest in a work-life balance. How is this artificial PC “diversity goal” going to be achieved, she asks…” Force women at gunpoint to become cardiologists, oil rig workers, and garbagepersons? Force men at gunpoint to become veterinarians and kindergarten teachers?”

Reader (and volunteer Ethics Alarms proof-reading czar) Pennagain just sent me an article about the relative lack of female movie critics (minority movie critics are also under-represented among Hispanics, blacks and Asians. (I would also bet that they are disproportionately gay, but the study discussed didn’t check that, apparently.) Now unlike, say, female  “garbagepersons,” female movie critics predictably have a point of view that would make a substantive difference in film reviews, so I cannot brush aside this particular imbalance with “So what?” Instead I will ask, “What’s stopping them?” Anyone can be a movie critic now: all you need is a website, some dedication, and, one hopes, some understanding of film and culture. Now, being paid as a film critic is a little trickier.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the New Yorker’s Pauline Kael, still perhaps the most famous U.S. film critic, whose long-lasting prominence, success and influence (I hated her reviews most of the time–overly political and biased, with whole genres she didn’t understand—“guy movies” like Westerns and horror films, that she sniffed at as beneath her) should have inspired more women to enter the field, but didn’t. I presume there is a reason for that, such as that spending your life watching multiple movies a day including many you wouldn’t be caught dead at if it wasn’t mandatory isn’t an attractive career choice, especially if you want a family.

2. From my sexual harassment files...I just rediscovered this, a sexual harassment case I discussed in program for a construction company in the 90’s. An attractive woman who worked in construction (Diversity!) was walking to work with a co-worker when some boor from an apartment window shouted at her, “Hey, show me your tits!” The women misheard the remark, and shouted back, “Sorry, I don’t have any kids!” Her colleague thought th exchange was hilarious, and told her what the guy really said, He also told everyone on the construction site about the incident, and the woman was pestered from then on with men smirking as they made comments like, “Hey, can I see pictures of your kids?” I hear you have two beautiful kids!” “Why don’t you let your kids out more?”  “Boy, I bet you’re proud of those kids of yours.” The women tried to laugh it off, but the joke never died, even though she started telling everyone to knock it off. Finally, she complained to management, and was told that she was being silly and hyper-sensitive. She sued.

Was using the word “kids”  in a coded joke creating a hostile work environment, or did the court find that since the language itself was inoffensive and not sex-related, it couldn’t be sexual harassment? Continue reading

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Women Of America: PLEASE Don’t Make Me An Anti-Feminist By Talking Like Anti-Male Bigots!

Apparently we can’t have mutual respect, equality, fairness and opportunity. There has to be a boot on someone’s throat, hate, envy, anger, payback, pecking orders, groveling and discrimination. The inevitable result of all that is backlash, and when it comes, it’s earned.

The most recent wretched example of this discouraging state of the culture is the escalation of anti-male, feminist chauvinism, though the trend has been building for a long time. Hillary Clinton’s primary argument for electing her President was that she had two X chromosomes, and anything else was a bonus. Long before that, Christiane Amanpour led a despicably sexist panel one memorable Sunday morning  in which she and three other women discussed how women are obviously better than men when it comes to leadership, management, decision-making, and conflict resolution.

I wrote at the time, when I was able to force my mouth to close from the rictus of horror it had been frozen into by this open display of bigotry: Continue reading

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