Category Archives: Research and Scholarship

Question: How Do You Prove That The News Media Lies To You?

Answer: Know a lot about something.

This is about baseball, and is a little technical, so I’ll try to be brief for you (unfortunate) non baseball fans.

Manny Machado is a 26 year old super-star baseball player who just signed the biggest free agent contract in MLB history, a guaranteed 300 million dollar deal for ten years with the San Diego Padres. Baseball writers have been trying to get free agents huge contracts this whole off-season rather than just reporting on the negotiations and signings. Why? Because sports journalists are overwhelmingly pro-labor, pro-union, and anti-ownership, aka. business, capitalism, billionaires. (The players are just millionaires, so they’re cool.) The writers and sports pundits have been working overtime to get public opinion on the side of the players, even though the huge salaries make being a fan more expensive, especially for families.

After Machado signed, the pundits on the MLB cable channel put up a graphic justifying the contract by showing that Machado had a comparable WAR—that’s statistically-calculated wins his teams got (theoretically!)  by having Machado playing rather than some borderline, mediocre shlub—to all-time greats like Willie Mays by the same age. The chart was a lie, but you had to know something about baseball history and how they calculate a player’s WAR to realize it. Continue reading

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Filed under Journalism & Media, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Sports

Oh, No! Ebonics Again!

A court reporter in Philadelphia heard a witness say, “He don’t be in that neighborhood,” but transcribed it as, “We going to be in this neighborhood.” Yes, that’s the opposite the opposite of what the speaker meant, and  a soon-to-be published study finds that Philadelphia court reporters often make errors transcribing sentences that are spoken in what the New York Times and some linguists call “African-American English.” I call it bad English, and once again the claim is being made that it’s everyone else’s fault when people can’t talk.

Here’s a jaw-dropping statement from the Times article: “Decades of research has shown that the way some black people talk could play a role in their ability to secure things like employment or housing. The new study, scheduled for publication in June in the linguistic journal Language, provides insight on how using black dialect could also impact African-Americans in courtrooms.” Ya think? I confess when I hear anyone, black or white, express themselves with a sentence like “He don’t be in that neighborhood,” I tend to think that

  • Such an individual is not well-educated
  • Such an individual is not well-read
  • Such an individual is unlikely to think very clearly
  • Such individuals may not be very bright, not necessarily because he or she speaks in such a manner, but that because they lack the common sense to know that doing so will not leave a positive impression.

In short, it is not my fault if someone else can’t speak clearly, and claiming that a grammatical and syntactical dogs breakfast like “He don’t be in that neighborhood” is acceptable because a lot of people talk that way is a rationalization. More Bizarro World reasoning from scholars,

“People who speak African-American English are stigmatized for so doing,” said Taylor Jones, a doctoral student in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s authors. Mr. Jones added that there was nothing improper or broken about the dialect that some African-Americans inherited over generations, but negative stereotypes have influenced the way people hear or perceive it.

“If you’re taught that these people speak incorrectly, then it’s very easy to say, ‘Well, they don’t make any sense; what they’re saying is wrong,’” Mr. Jones said.

Those who argue that “He don’t be in that neighborhood” isn’t incorrect are essentially pointing us toward a cultural Babel where anyone can make up and adopt whatever dialect they choose, and insist that everyone else acceptand decypher it. That’s no way to run a business, a nation, or society. Clarity in language is essential, and must not be shrugged off as one more matter of personal choice. We have to communicate, after all. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/16/19: Blacks With White Privilege, A Home Trump Derangement Test, Defending “Hamilton,” And More…

Got up on the wrong side of the bed today..

…and trying to recover.

1. Finally! The Ultimate Trump Derangement Home Test! This is wonderful, and we owe a debt to CNN for making this available. NeverTrump neocon Max Boot, who has been a “rseistance” ally since the 2016 election and who also writes op-eds for the Washington Post, presented this hilarious—but don’t tell anyone you are using the to test hilarious—visual aid to his recent Post screed:

Isn’t that great? I initially thought it was a Saturday Night Live parody, but how could that be, when SNL is all Trump Derangement All The Time itself? All you have to do is show this to a suspected TDS sufferer, and wait for the response. Hearty laughter followed by something along the lines of,” Wow! I didn’t think even CNN would stoop this low, but there it is!”, and you know your friend or family member has escaped the jaws of madness. If the subject’s reaction is to point and shout, “See! See! I told you the election was rigged!”, then it’s time for cold compresses and a 911 call.

Once again, I miss the fevered passion of the self-exiled Trump Deranged commenters on Ethics Alarms, to see exactly how far gone they are, if they are. Hilarity was bound to ensue.

I was tempted to do a whole post showing how every one of Boot’s “reasons” are strained circumstantial evidence at best or utter nonsense at worst, but two words, “confirmation bias,” pretty much covers it, along with a third, “desperation.” Meanwhile, just as self-amusement, I’m working on the list of reasons why Max Boot might be a Russian agent. So far I have Dilbert’s Scott Adams’ observation that while the pitiful Russian fake news on social media couldn’t divide the country, hysterical anti-Trump conspiracy theorists are doing a good job serving Russian interests by undermining the Presidency; Max’s “Boot” code name, which evokes George Orwell’s’ famous metaphor for Communist totalitarianism; and that Curly Howard hair cut, the choice of international anti-democracy villains in James Bond films,  “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” TV’s “The Black List” and everything in between.

That’s only three, though. Suggestions welcome.

2. Is this good news or bad news? “Family Guy,” Seth McFarland’s nastier, cheaper, uglier rip-off of “The Simpsons,” has announced that it will be “phasing out” homophobic jokes. It’s certainly good news if this includes the disgusting and unfunny running gag about the old man next door to “The Family Guy” who has sexual designs on Peter’s idiot son, I guess. The problem is that the only feature of “The Family Guy” that made its intentionally tasteless and offensive humor excusable was that the show was cruel and unfair to everyone, pretty much equally. If the show is now bowing to victim-group pressure, how long will it be before its only targets are white men, conservatives, Fox News and Donald Trump?

If McFarland and the show are now afraid of being politically incorrect when political incorrectness is a career death sentence for everyone else, then it should just kill the show, rather than wander the airwaves hollowed out and submissive like the brainwashed Winston Smith at the end of “1984.”

Oh-oh. Second Orwell reference already today… Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/8/2019: A “Bias Makes You Stupid” Spectacular! [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

The first appearance of Donald, Debbie and Gene in the New Year!

1. “A Nation of Assholes” update: Conservatives being ugly. The comments and even the posts around the conservative blogosphere regarding Ruth Bader Ginsberg are repulsive, and  reveal a deep mean streak, a lack of compassion and basic respect. Ginsberg, it was announced yesterday, will miss oral arguments–that means she won’t be able to vote on the cases she doesn’t hear—for the first time in her long career. It also may well mean that she isn’t long for this world, or the Court. The gleeful tone of the jokes, sarcasm and mockery being aimed her way by those salivating at the prospect that she will soon be replaced by a right-leaning justice is palpable. (Yes, some of the mean jokes are funny. The blog referring to her illness as a “belated Christmas present” isn’t.)

2. A classic bad argument for illegal immigration in response to an emotional one against it. The advocate? Geraldo Rivera. On a Hannity segment with conservative Dan Bongino [Correction notice: I mistakenly identified Bongino as African American in the original post. He is apparently Italian-American.]  Rivera tried to defend illegal immigration while condemning the use of individual episodes of violent crimes by illegals to justify stronger border enforcement. As Bongino and Hannity shouted around and over him, Rivera objected to Hannity’s featuring the grieving parents of 22-year-old Pierce Kennedy Corcoran who was killed in a head-on car crash with illegal immigrant Franco Cambrany Francisco-Eduardo. Francisco-Eduardo was charged with criminally negligent homicide and driving without a license or insurance,  was turned over to ICE. (Good!). Hannity lit the fuse when he began his panel by saying,

“Their son is dead. Or the people that also aid and abet these people with their sanctuary cities and sanctuary states, criminal aliens in our custody that are not handed over to ICE. You always say it’s about both parties, it’s not,” Hannity stated. “It’s about one party now that refuses to protect the American people…”

Said Geraldo at his most Geraldo-ish: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Workplace

Authentic Frontier Gibberish, And Why Academia Shouldn’t Be Trusted

Christina Hoff Summers tweeted out this quote from gender theorist Judith Butler:

Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Kaboom!, language, Research and Scholarship

Unethical Quote Of The Week: “Meet The Press” Host Chuck Todd

Silence, Denier!

“Just as important as what we are going to do this hour is what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to debate climate change, the existence of it. The Earth is getting hotter, and human activity is a major cause. Period. We’re not going to give time to climate deniers. The science is settled, even if political opinion is not.”

NBC’s “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd, introducing a “special” edition today on climate change.

It’s difficult to see the progressive-mainstream news media alliance more openly flexing its totalitarian muscles than that, is it?

“Settled science” on this topic has become one more debate and knowledge stifling cliché,   like similar dishonest word games such as “right to choose,” “sensible gun laws” and “comprehensive immigration reform.” It also means “Shut up!” Todd demonstrated this literally, by refusing to allow any dissent on a program with the objective of frightening the public into accepting draconian and speculative policy measures by uncritically accepting a doomsday scenario that is anything but settled science.

This is not merely bad science, it’s unethical journalism. I presume that the program didn’t mention, for example, the inconvenient report just this week  that 2018 had the fewest major tornadoes in recorded in history.

Wait—how could that be, when the much ballyhooed (and criticized)  federal report on climate change had Democrats crowing things like Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX),  the presumed chair of the House science committee in January, about the certainty of report’s conclusion predicting “increased wildfires, more damaging storms, dramatic sea level rise, more harmful algal blooms, disease spread, dire economic impacts, the list goes on and on. That being said, all hope is not lost, but we must act now. We have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, work on adaptation and mitigation, and explore technology solutions such as geoengineering and carbon capture and sequestration”?

The less-destructive tornadoes go along nicely with the highly- reduced numbers of major hurricanes in the past decade. Don’t they at least suggest that the “settled science” can’t predict what is going to happen as accurately as “settled science” should? Does the settled science know how long warming trends will continue? How warm it will get? Whether various proposed measures will be effective in combating it? Does the settled science know why every model has failed so far, and why all the dire reports still must be called speculative at best, irresponsible hysteria at worst?

Most news media that reported the tornado data never even linked it to climate change models and the federal report, which it directly contradicted. Check the Hill for example. Call me a stickler, but I like my “settled science” a lot more settled than “the Earth continues to warm due to man-made pollution, and this is causing catastrophic extreme weather that threatens our lives, economy and infrastructure, but for some damn reason this hasn’t been true of hurricanes and tornadoes—you know, the most destructive storms there are?–lately and we don’t know why.” Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

In Gratitude: Fred Greenstein (1930-2018)

The New York Times obituary for Dr. Fred Greenstein states early on, “Dr. Greenstein, who taught politics at Princeton University for nearly three decades, first made his mark with a reconsideration of Eisenhower, who was long perceived as disengaged from the job. Dr. Greenstein’s book, “The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader” (1982), upended that view.” Professor Greenstein first “made his mark” with me when I was in college, and discovered some scholarly articles he had written about the psychology of leaders and U.S. Presidents, and later, a thin volume, written in 1969, called “Personality and Politics.” His writings, research and theories gave me the idea for my honors thesis, which set out to determine whether there was an “American Presidency type” which our system tended to guide to the White House. (My conclusion: there was indeed.)

My research on this project informs my opinions and analysis to this day. The thesis was a bear: my thesis advisors told me it was far too ambitious. It required reading all the major biographies and autobiographies of the Presidents to that point,matching them to various psychology studies, and trying to find legitimate and documented similarities in background and character that might have predictive value. I always intended to expand my thesis, which was well-received by the Government Department, into a book, but life, as often happens, got in the way.

Professor Greenstein, however, kept expanding and refining his theories. In addition to showing why Ike was not a weak President, as Kennedy-worshiper Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr., ranked him (infuriating my father, along with other veterans), but a strong one with a unique and confident leadership style, Greenstein continued to analyze this most difficult, complex and personal of leadership roles in later works: “Presidents and the Dissolution of the Union: Leadership Style from Polk to Lincoln” (2013);  “Inventing the Job of President: Leadership Style from George Washington to Andrew Jackson” (2009); “The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Clinton” (1996) and “How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions on Vietnam, 1954 and 1965” (1989). Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Research and Scholarship