Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/22/2019: Five Ugly Ethics Stories (Sorry!)

A pleasant Sunday…

as long as I don’t read the newspaper or watch the Talking Heads…

1. Before I finish a long post about the most recent contrived Brett Kanavaugh smear by the New York Times, ponder this quote from the Times review of “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh”: “[The authors] come to a generous but also damning conclusion, which is that Blasey Ford and Ramirez are believable and were in fact mistreated by Kavanaugh as teenagers, but that over the next 35 years he became a better person.”

Ugh. The conclusion is “damning” because it relies almost entirely on confirmation bias: Blasey Ford’s own lawyer revealed that her motive in using her “recovered memory” against Kavanaugh was to discredit any anti-abortion opinions he participated in as a member of the court. The accusation of Ramirez isn’t, apparently, even believable to Ramirez herself, since she says she isn’t certain that the Mad Penis-Dangler was Bret Kavanaugh. Why then, do the authors find the claims “believable”? Oh, because they want to believe them, of course; they work for the New York Times, and they certainly weren’t going to get their book promoted by their employer and snatched up by it readers if they concluded, as objective reporters would, that there is no more reason to believe Justice Kavanaugh did these things than there is reason to believe he didn’t.

The real ugh is this, however: if even these biased analysts conclude that the accusations, even if true, do not have any relevance on the grown man who was nominated to the Supreme Court because they relate to a minor who existed 35 years ago—and who has, as most children do, grown up—then the episodes that their book focuses upon literally don’t matter, shouldn’t have been brought into Kavanaugh’s hearing,  and should not be used now to denigrate and discredit him.

2. From “Social Q’s,” a glimpse of what a malfunctioning ethics alarm is like. Prompting the frequently appearing question in my mind, “How does someone get like this?” was the query into Phillip Gallane’s advice column from a woman who threw herself a birthday party, directed guests not to bring gifts but to make a donation to a charity she supports instead, and was annoyed that some brought gifts anyway. She asked if it would be inappropriate to send the gifts back with a disapproving note so they “would listen” to her “next time.”

I know what I would do “next time”…

3. Hey, sounds great, Facebook! What wouldn’t everyone trust your judgment? Facebook announced  a series of changes last week to squelch hate speech and extremism—meaning what Facebook and its allies consider such— on its platform in a letter to the chairman of a House panel, Facebook said it would prevent links from the fringe sites 8chan and 4chan from being posted on its platform—you, know like it blocks links to Ethics Alarms!  Then it explained how it would develop an oversight board of at least 11 members to review and oversee content decisions—like the decision that a wide-ranging ethics blog that has no political affiliation or agenda, written by a professional ethicist of some note, doesn’t meet the Facebook “community standards.”

In other, unrelated news regarding the obstacles being thrown in my path, the Appeals Court in Massachusetts finally alerted me that it was taking “under advisement” the request for an appeal of the rejected frivolous defamation suit filed about two years ago by a banned commenter here whose boo-boo I wounded.

(I am not concerned.) Continue reading

Saturday Night Ethics Fever, 9/21/2019: Crazy Stuff

1. A simple, factual, ethical rebuttal to Beto O’Rourke, who panders to the anti-gun Democratic base by saying that he’ll confiscate the weapons he thinks we don’t “need.” Lauren Boebert, who with her husband owns local restaurant Shooters Grill, where she and a lot of the staff  open carry a loaded firearm,  confronted  O’Rourke at a town hall in Aurora Colorado. “I was one of the gun-owning Americans who heard you speak regarding your ‘Hell yes, I’m going to take your AR-15s and AK-47s.’ Well, I’m here to say, ‘Hell no, you’re not!”

She was, of course, correct, just as Beto was grandstanding to the ignorant and fearful, in deliberate defiance of the Constitution.

To his credit, Beto tried to control the rabid anti-Second Amendment fanatics in his crowd  who tried to shout Boebert down, as she continued,  “We all have these stories. We all have the experiences. I was living in Aurora during Columbine. I had just recently moved when the Aurora shootings happened. Yet I have very close ties here. Yet all of those people were there defenseless.”

“They had no way to defend themselves against a crazed shooter, so I want to know how you intend to legislate the hearts of men and leave American citizens like myself, American mothers,” Boebert said. above the  abuse from the crowd. “I have four children. I’m 5 foot zero, one hundred pounds, and cannot really defend myself with a fist.”

Then she told a heckler near her that  she didn’t have her AR-15 with her, but  was carrying her Glock. “Well, you shouldn’t have that,” the man said.

Wrong again. It’s not his call, nor his business, whether she has a pistol or not.

2. From the wasteful and pointless protests files: “Hundreds of thousands” of 20-somethings and kids took part in a global protest against “inaction on climate change.” What do they know about climate change? Only what they have been told by agenda- driven activists, teachers and politicians, almost all of them without genuine scientific comprehension of the complexities, vagaries and uncertainty of the topic themselves. Are hundreds of thousands of people who don’t really know what they are talking about more persuasive than, say, one? Should they be?

No. Leading these innocents to believe otherwise is a cruel joke. Margot Guillen of Harvest Collegiate High School, told Yahoo News she was there to send a message, saying, “By protesting peacefully, it shows how committed our generation is to making a change and showing that we know what’s happening and we need to stop it.” They don’t know what’s happening, though, and they don’t know how to stop “it,” in part because they don’t know what “it” is, when “it” will occur, what the extent of “it” will be, and even whether “it,” whatever “it” is, will occur at all.

Good protest.

Typical. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Flotsam And Jetsam, 9/16/2019: Ethics Movies, Clowns And Harvard Professors

…As I prep for a CLE road trip…

1. I finally saw “Doubt,” the film adaptation of the John Patrick Shanley stage drama about a parish priest suspected of child abuse. It’s an ethics film, and unlike many ethics films, made a profit at the box office.

I had seen the play on stage, and found it didactic and contrived; the film did not, I’m sure because the cast was so excellent. Meryl Streep, Viola Davis and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the priest were all wonderful, especially Davis, whose single scene in which she runs down a series of desperate arguments and rationalizations to justify allowing her son to be molested—maybe—is an ethics cornucopia. Unlike the stage production I saw, the movie benefits by having its protagonists appear less sympathetic than its apparent villain.

This goes on the ethics movie list, which is due for an update.

2.  Yet another ethics movie of more recent vintage is 2019’s “The Challenger Disaster,” a fictionalized recounting of how the decision was made to allow the doomed space shuttle to launch despite the warnings of Morton Thiokol engineers.  I wrote about this depressing ethics case study here , in a tribute to the primary Cassandra in the tragedy, Roger Boisjoly, and here,  about his troubled colleague, Bob Ebeling. The film’s hero appears to be an amalgam of the two. Here is an excerpt from a review on The Engineering Ethics Blog:

Even if you are pretty familiar with the basics of the story, as I was, the film is almost agonizing to watch as the launch time draws closer….The focus is always on Adam [the fictional hybrid of the engineers opposing the launch]: his belief going in that the truth is always a sufficient argument (it’s not, as it turns out), his doubts that he’s done enough to stop the launch, and his retrospective descriptions of what went on in the hours leading up to the launch…. the generally underlit atmosphere symbolizes Adam’s darkening mood as the critical conference call comes and goes, and the decision is made to launch. After Adam drives home that evening, he just sits out in the driveway in his car until his wife comes and gets into the seat beside him. …Later, during the  hearings that Adam and his fellow engineers attend, they come forward out of the audience and interrupt the proceedings after they hear a Morton-Thiokol manager lie about his knowledge of the seal problem. After the hearing, a sympathetic commission member finds Adam and reassures him that there are whistleblowing laws to protect him from repercussions of his testimony.

While it is never good to kick a man while he is down, I wish the film had taken time to show in more detail the intensity of the ostracism that forced the real-life Boisjoly to resign from Morton-Thiokol after his participation in the hearings made him persona non grata at work. … Boisjoly made a new career out of giving talks to engineering students about his experiences. …For a complex, historically accurate, and thought-provoking take on the Challenger disaster, I cannot think of a better medium than “The Challenger Disaster”  for conveying the seriousness of the emotion-laden decisions that have to be made at critical times. It is not a fun movie, but it’s a good one. And I hope it does well in video-on-demand release, because engineers need to see it.

Also lawyers, doctors, corporate executives, military officers, government officials, journalists, students… Continue reading

Signature Significance (Again) From the New York Times: A Trustworthy Newspaper Does Not Do This [CORRECTED]

That would be a more useful rule, of course, if there were any trustworthy newspapers.

The most recent Ethics Alarms filing under “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” appeared yesterday.  A story headlined Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not appeared in the Sunday Times, with the sub-head, “Deborah Ramirez’s Yale experience says much about the college’s efforts to diversify its student body in the 1980s.” And why were Yale’s efforts to diversify in the Eighties suddenly worthy of a Times feature in September, 2019? Because the real purpose of the article was not to talk about Yale, but to smear Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh —again.

Ramirez was Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate  who had told The New Yorker last year during the justice’s confirmation hearings that she’d been severely inebriated at a party at Yale in her freshman year when “something” had happened. She said that “a male student pointed a gag plastic penis in her direction” and  a “third male then exposed himself to her.” The assumption is that the flasher was Kavanaugh, though Ramirez never directly named him. New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly tried to verify the story, and could not. Never mind: they wrote a book anyway.

In “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation,”  they quoted the same individuals the New Yorker had tracked down who said that they “heard about” the incident, as well as Ramirez’s mother, who says—now this is a smoking gun if there ever was one—that  she was told at the time that “something happened” at Yale.

Nevertheless, the Times reporters are convinced that Ramirez’s claim is correct. They wrote,

A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student. Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly. 

Not “fit to print,” apparently, was the that Stier was not only a non-profit executive but also had served as one of Bill Clinton’s defense attorneys. Heck, why should that be relevant to his credibility? But I digress… Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/2019: Opinions, Ethical And Not

It’s a glorious day here in Northern Virginia!

Makes me feel like things are looking up, even though they probably aren’t.

1. I refer you to the most recent post about “the resistance’s” arsenal of big lies. specifically Big Lie #5, “Everything is terrible.” In the Times’ Sunday Review section, usually a resistance nest to one degree or another, though less so in recent months, Trump Deranged Times columnist Michelle Goldberg offers a long essay beginning with the assumption that current day America is a dystopian society. How does she justify this ridiculous assertion? Referencing the science fiction novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which women in the U.S. “are stripped of their identities and consigned to reproductive slavery for the elite.” Goldberg writes,

“It’s hardly surprising that in 2016 the book resonated with people — particularly women — stunned that a brazen misogynist, given to fascist rhetoric and backed by religious fundamentalists, was taking power despite the wishes of the majority of the population.”

I especially like the “despite the wishes of the majority of the population” part, but the whole statement is dishonest  agitprop. Nobody “took power;” an election took place under Constitutional constraints. Goldberg cannot possibly gauge the “wishes” of the majority, since, as usual, the majority didn’t feel sufficiently concerned about the Presidential election’s outcome to bother to vote, meaning they didn’t “wish” for either candidate to win with enough seriousness or commitment to be  part  of any persuasive analysis. Meanwhile, the President was elected according to the system the United States has operated under since its inception. And describing Trump, who is about as religious as most recent Presidents, which is to say, not at all, was “backed by religious fundamentalists” is as accurate as saying that Barack Obama was backed by anti-white racists.

Read the whole stupid thing. It is irresponsible for a legitimate newspaper to publish such crap, but no more so than for one to employ a biased disinformation specialist like Goldberg as a regular contributor.

2. Once again, Andrew Sullivan finds his way toward calling out unethical journalism. In a recent essay for New York Magazine, the occasionally conservative, gay, religious, emotional but determined truth-teller—as he sees it, anyway—declares  the New York Times a publication that has abandoned journalism for activism.

Two quick reactions: a) Ya think, Sherlock? and b) THIS was your first clue?

He concludes strongly, though, writing, “To present a truth as the truth is in fact a deception. And it is hard to to trust a paper engaged in trying to deceive its readers in order for its radical reporters and weak editors to transform the world.”

Hard? The right word is “irresponsible.”

Related: This excellent essay by Peter Wood expounds further on the duplicity of the Times’ much heralded “1619 Project.” Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/14/2019: “You Made Me Slam You (I Didn’t Want To Do It)” Edition

Welcome!

1.  To be fair to Kerry Roberts, while we should not and cannot eliminate colleges, this is also trueFrom The American Thinker:

….Sarah Sanders made one of the best observations in recent weeks when, reflecting on the Democrats running for president, she observed, “I’m pretty sure they don’t even like America.”  She’s right.  They don’t.  For those who are wondering how the Democrats could have produced such a distinguished slate of the sanity-challenged, it is because of radical liberal control of America’s colleges and universities.  The Marxist radicals of yesterday became college professors of today, seizing ideological control of much of America….American universities are radicalizing an increasingly large share of America.  This is aided by the fact that nearly 70% of kids now go to college, where most of them are taught not to think. Every candidate on stage is convinced that the lion’s share of Democrat primary voters are radical Marxists.  Sadly, they’re all largely right, which is why any candidate who sounds remotely reasonable is running about the same percentage of voter support as you.  These candidates should know their voters, since every one of them is likely a product of America’s universities.  It is hard to overstate the damage this institution is inflicting on America but that outcome was on full display during the Democrat debate.

2.  Stipulated: Using PolitiFact as an authority in any political debate is proof that the user is either so biased he can’t recognize partisan slant when it’s right under his nose, or lying. I remember how most of the Ethics Alarms boycotters from the progressive collective, before they turned tail and ran, liked to cite the obviously manipulative fact-check service, the worst of the worst, if you don’t count Snopes. (FactCheck.org, though leftward tilting, is by far the fairest one of all, according to my magic ethics mirror on the wall…) Kudos, then, to Ted Cruz, who took the time to point out in a tweet:

“Just a reminder, when I said it, PolitiFact (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the DNC) rated ‘Beto wants to take our guns’ as FALSE,.” “Maybe they should buy one of his new t-shirts.”

You know..these:

Now I’m tempted to imitate Cruz’s tweak with my Facebook friends who indignantly protested when I described their favorite party as the champion of open borders, gun confiscation, and late-term abortion. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 9/12/2019: It’s The Ethics Derby, With The Obamas In The Lead, Ms. Monopoly Close Behind, Apple Coming Up On the Rail, And The News Media And The Democratic Party Bringing Up The Rear!

Post time!

I’m stunned at how little publicity and outrage has been generated by the just-revealed Triple Crown scandal. I’m hoping it’s because thoroughbred horse racing is such a marginal sport today that nobody cares about it—quite a fall for “the sport of kings,” which was once among the three most popular sports in the U.S. I fear it is because the public has become so cynical about sports generally that ethical breaches don’t surprise of bother them much.

1. Speaking of ethics insanity in sports: A female teen  champion swimmer for Anchorage’s Dimond High School easily won the 100-yard freestyle during last week’s night’s meet against a rival school. Then she learned that she had been disqualified, because her swimsuit was exposing too much of her buttocks, according to an official. The swimmer was wearing the exact same suit as her team mates and her competition; the problem was, apparently, her body, which was “curvier” than the typical female swimmer, perhaps because she was a mixed-race competitor in a sport that is almost exclusively white.

Another official who was working during the meet, told the Anchorage Daily News that one of the female  refs complained that the bottom of the girl’s suit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’

The Horror.

From the Washington Post: “Anchorage School District officials  have announced that they  reviewed the incident and concluded that the teenager “was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body,” and that the referee’s decision was ‘heavy-handed and unnecessary.’ The district is appealing to the Alaska School Activities Association, asking to reverse the swimmer’s disqualification, return all points to her team, and revoke certification for the referee who made the call. The district is also seeking to suspend and eventually revise the guidelines in place for appropriate swimsuit coverage, which officials said were ambiguous and left room for biased interpretation.”

They should also ask that rudimentary ethics alarms be required of all swimming judges.

2. There is hope! Two recent polls—stipulated: any poll is likely to be misleading and worthless–suggest that Ethics Alarms hasn’t been entirely futile in its—to some—excessive coverage of what I believe to be the two most important ethics stories on our times: the Democratic Party’s rejection of its duty to uphold American institutions and respect elections, and the corruption of American journalism. Oh, I have no illusions that this oft-censored little blog has contributed much to enlightening the public, but I’m satisfied that it contributes in a small way to the zeitgeist, which is vital if the nation is going to survive the assault on its values.

The first study comes from the PR agency, Bospar, in collaboration with Propeller Insights. Its survey of 1,010 American adults found that more than 95% are troubled by the current state of the news media, with 53% citing “reports on fake news,” 49% citing “reporting gossip,” and 48% citing “lying spokespeople,” as concerns. 67% believe ethics in journalism will be worse during the 2020 presidential campaign–I’d say that’s a safe bet. I’m amazed that anyone wouldn’t expect this.

Oddly, almost all of my Facebook friends reside in that less than 5% who feel the news media is as pure as the driven snow, and anyone who impugn its objectivity is a Nazi, racist, moronic Trump supporter.

The second comes from the more reliable Pew Foundation. Pew data from last year showed that most Americans had a favorable opinion of the Democratic party, and a negative view of the GOP. 53 % of respondents last September said that they viewed the Democratic party favorably, compared to 42% who said they viewed it unfavorably. In the same survey, 43% had a favorable view of the Republican Party compared to 52% who had an unfavorable view. This September’s Pew survey shows that most Americans view both the Democratic and Republican parties with disfavor, and in exactly equal proportions: 45 % positive,  52%  negative.

Good. The Democratic Party has been behaving crazy and irresponsibly for more than three years, a I’ve tried to document; they deserve this result. Continue reading