Confirmation Bias And A Societal “Big Lie,” Brought To You By Harvard And The New Yorker

She looks so smart and sure of herself! Surely we can trust what SHE writes…

The anti-police propaganda spreading the lie that most police are racist and brutal and therefore a greater threat to society than a benefit has become like the nine-headed Hydra of Greek mythology: nearly impossible to kill. Prime among the villains in this development are the news media, which has enthusiastically spread misinformation while refusing to do its job of clarifying facts rather than distorting them, and researchers and academics, who have become so cowed by the abusive hyper-ideological environment in which they work that they won’t even stand behind their own studies. As discussed here, after a peer-reviewed study showing  that the race of the officer or the civilian could not predict  fatal police shootings was used by defenders of police and critics of Black Lives Matte, the researchers were pressured into retracting their paper because it was being, they said, misused.

I know I’m sounding uncharacteristically frustrated this weekend, but I really don’t know how society fights deliberate disinformation in support of a destructive narrative when both the journalism sector and the academic establishment are in on the fix.

Here is a representative example from The New Yorker. The current edition includes a 5,000 word essay by Jill Lepore, who should be trustworthy: she is  a professor of American history at Harvard as well as frequent writer at The New Yorker and for other presumably legitimate publications.  Her topic is the history of policing in the United States, linking the early role of police in suppressing slave rebellions to police killings of blacks today. At one point she writes,

One study suggests that two-thirds of Americans between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four who were treated in emergency rooms suffered from injuries inflicted by police and security guards, about as many people as the number of pedestrians injured by motor vehicles.

Wait…what? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Joe Biden”

I bet Michael, when he submitted this Comment of the Day, had a feeling I’d groove on it. After all, it’s about a President, I’m a Presidents nut,  and he ends up agreeing with me, which is always welcome.

He also raises and interesting question that was not considered in the post. If we judged Presidents on a racism scale that weighted their attitudes according to how they compared to the culture and predominant beliefs of the day, which Presidents would come out looking best? That’s how baseball stat analysts judge players across eras, and it makes sense: players are compared to league averages while they were playing, and then the stats are adjusted accordingly.  For example, Carl Yastrzemski’s .301 average in 1968 was more impressive, and represented better hitting  in his offensive context, than Lou Gehrig’s .354 mark in 1936, when ten players hit at least .350.

Analyzed that way, Woodrow Wilson comes out as the most racist President, more than the slaveholders. Jefferson, despite being a slaveholder, looks relatively good in the context of his times. So, I think, does Teddy Roosevelt, unapologetic white supremacist that he undoubtedly was.

Here’s Michael’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Joe Biden”: Continue reading

Ethics Batting Practice, 7/21/ 2020: Baseball Zoom Hangover Edition.

Isn’t that only TWO feet??

Last night’s Smithsonian Associates presentation on baseball and American culture went well, I guess. Presenting on Zoom is like acting in a closet: no connection to the audience, no way to gauge what is working and what isn’t, or whether the invisible viewers are engaged. It did give me  a chance, during the section on baseball cheating, to read one of my favorite passages from Philip Roth’s baseball allegory/satire,”The Great American Novel.” Roth’s narrator, mad sportswriter Word Smith, tells the sad tale of the legendary “Spit” Baal, a master of the spitball, the mucous-ball and other trick pitches aided by surreptitiously applied substances. After such adulterations of the ball were banned in 1920, Baal found his career in tatters, since he could no longer use his signature pitch. (In the real world, the National league and American league allowed acknowledged spitball specialists to continue to throw the pitch legally under a grandfather clause, but Roth’s fantasy  is about a third major league, wiped from history and record books in the Fifties following the discovery that it had been infiltrated by Communists.) One day, again seeing his dry pitches clobbered and realizing that he could no longer get batters out legally, “Spit” has a psychotic break on the mound that ends his career in spectacular if unsanitary fashion:

And so before twenty thousand shocked customers  including innocent children — and his own wide-eyed teammates, the once great pitcher, who was  washed up anyway, did the unthinkable, the unpardonable, the inexpiable. He dropped the flannel  trousers of his uniform to his knees, and proceeded  to urinate on the ball, turning it slowly in his hands  so as to dampen the entire surface. Then he hitched  his trousers back up, and in the way of pitchers,  pawed at the ground around the mound with his  spikes, churning up then smoothing down the dirt  where he had inadvertently dribbled upon it. To the  batter, as frozen in his position as anyone in that  ball park, he called, “Here comes the pissball, shithead — get ready!”

For years afterward they talked about the route that ball took before it passed over the plate. Not  only did it make the hairpin turns and somersaults  expected of a Baal spitter, but legend has it that it  shifted gears four times, halving, then doubling its  velocity each fifteen feet it traveled. And in the end,  the catcher, in his squat, did not even have to move  his glove from where it too was frozen as a target .Gagging, he caught the ball with a squish, right in  the center of the strike zone…

1. So this graph would seem to indicate that the news media is scare mongering, right? Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 7/19/2020: And The Hits Just Keep On Coming!

1. Final plug, as the bat above (and in my hands) reminds me: If you are set up with Zoom (it’s free, you know), you still have time to register for the Smithsonian Associates program  tomorrow evening (at 6:45 pm, EST) wherein I hold forth on how baseball has influenced American culture, values and history. Yes, it’s $35 bucks, but it goes to a good cause, and may help the Institute hire more competent employees who don’t peddle junk like the chart on “whiteness.” You’ll be able to ask questions, and I’m storing these experiences for the Ethics Alarms Zoom experience to come. Read all about it here…

2. If a left-wing dim bulb like Jonathan Chait can figure this out, surely more are to follow. He writes in New York Magazine…you know, where Andrew Sullivan was regarded as too conservative?

The ideology of the racism-training industry …collapses all identity into racial categories. “It is crucial for white people to acknowledge and recognize our collective racial experience,” writes [ Robin DiAngelo, of temporary White Fragility” fame,] whose teachings often encourage the formation of racial affinity groups. The program does not allow any end point for the process of racial consciousness. Racism is not a problem white people need to overcome in order to see people who look different as fully human — it is totalizing and inescapable. Of course, DiAngelo’s whites-only groups are not dreamed up in the same spirit as David Duke’s. The problem is that, at some point, the extremes begin to functionally resemble each other despite their mutual antipathy…. In some cases its ideas literally replicate anti-Black racism.”

Ya think??? Continue reading

From The “Don’t Confuse Us With Facts, Our Minds Are Made Up!” Files: A 19-Year-Old Sikh Immigrant Rebuts “Systemic Racism”

His argument deserves a debate. So far, the strategy has been to ignore him.

The conservative New York tabloid, the New York Post, published an opinion piece  last Sunday with the headline “The Fallacy of White Privilege.” The author was Rav Arora,  a 19-year-old Sikh immigrant, brought by his parents to Canada from India at the age of 4. “[M]y family suffered tremendous economic hardships and cultural challenges,” he wrote. “My father drove a taxi at night and my mom worked many menial jobs as a cook, housecleaner, barista and motel cleaner.” Ultimately, he says, the family escaped poverty to become successful and financially secure. Rav himself is obviously well-educated and adept at critical thinking.

He writes in part,

Rising from poverty to economic prosperity is a common narrative for immigrants from all backgrounds in the West. For example, after the communist takeover of Cuba in 1959, many refugees fled to America, leaving most of their wealth behind and having to start from the bottom. But by 1990, second-generation Cuban Americans were twice as likely to earn an annual salary of $50,000 than non-Hispanic whites in the United States. The notion of white privilege stems from the idea that white people have benefited in American history relative to “people of color”…[but]  the concept of white privilege can’t explain why several historically marginalized groups out-perform whites today.

In the rest of his essay,  Arora uses  government statistics to cast doubt on the “white privilege” narrative. For example,

“[T]he concept of white privilege can’t explain why several historically marginalized groups out-perform whites today. Take Japanese Americans, for example: For nearly four decades in the 20th century (1913 – 1952), this group was legally prevented from owning land and property in over a dozen American states. Moreover, 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned during World War II. But by 1959, the income disparity between Japanese Americans and white Americans nearly vanished. Today, Japanese Americans outperform whites by large margins in income statistics, education outcomes, test scores and incarceration rates.”

Asian-Americans in general undermine the “white supremacy” narrative, so they are conveniently stuffed into the “POC” category as activists hope nobody asks embarrassing questions.

“According to median household income statistics from the US Census Bureau, several minority groups substantially out-earn whites. These groups include Pakistani Americans, Lebanese Americans, South African Americans, Filipino Americans, Sri Lankan Americans and Iranian Americans (in addition to several others). Indians, the group I belong to, are the highest-earning ethnic group the census keeps track of, with almost double the household median income of whites.”

Gee, that’s interesting! Why isn’t Arora being featured on today’s talking head shows, as panels of experts huminahumina* attempted explanations about why this doesn’t explode the whole white privilege narrative? I’m not saying they couldn’t show his argument is flawed. I’m asking why they won’t try.

“[S]everal black immigrant groups such as Nigerians, Barbadians, Ghanaians and Trinidadians & Tobagonians have a median household income well above the American average. Ghanian Americans, to take one example, earn more than several specific white groups such as Dutch Americans, French Americans, Polish Americans, British Americans and Russian Americans. Do Ghanaians have some kind of sub-Saharan African privilege?”

In one of my periodic enlightening conversations with immigrant cab drivers, a loquacious cabbie from Africa told me, unsolicited, “There’s no prejudice in the country against blacks. There’s a prejudice against native American blacks. I always feel respected here. I think it is my accent and my work habits.”

“[S]uicide rates are disproportionately high among the white population. In 2018, whites had the highest suicide rate of 16.03 per 100,000. The New York Times has reported that whites are dying faster than they are being born in a majority of US states — in large part due to high rates of substance abuse and suicide. In comparison, black Americans had a suicide rate less than half of whites (6.96). . . .”

To this he adds,

“If we look at health outcomes reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we find that African Americans are less likely than whites to die of several health conditions such as bladder cancer, leukemia, esophageal cancer, lung cancer, . . . brain cancer and skin cancer, to take a few arbitrary examples. But no one in their right mind would protest any ‘health privilege’ enjoyed by African Americans in these instances.”

There is more. It’s a brave and provocative piece. Too bad the people who need to read it won’t.

_________________________

* I’m going to add “huminahumina” to the  Concepts and Special Terms list. It refers to what poor, perpetual screw-up Ralph Kramden (played by Jackie Gleason) would babble incoherently when he was caught, as he often was, in a lie or an embarrassing situation that he couldn’t talk his way out of, on the old TV sitcom, “The Honeymooners.” (It is often, and incorrectly, referred to as “hominahomina.”)

Today, it was used as a verb.

Ethics Observations On The National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Retreat

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) endured only a day of searing criticism before it removed its racist chart on “whiteness” from  its website. The site replaced the graphic, which Ethics Alarms reproduced here and here and never wants to see again, with this statement:

At the National Museum of African American History and Culture, we believe that any productive conversation on race must start with honesty, respect for others, and an openness to ideas and information that provide new perspectives. In that context, we recently unveiled “Talking About Race,” an online portal providing research, studies, and other academic materials from the fields of history, education, psychology, and human development.Our goal in doing so was to contribute to a discussion on this vitally important subject that millions of Americans are grappling with. Since yesterday, certain content in the “Talking About Race” portal has been the subject of questions that we have taken seriously. We have listened to public sentiment and have removed a chart that does not contribute to the productive discussion we had intended. The site’s intent and purpose are to foster and cultivate conversations that are respectful and constructive and provide increased understanding. As an educational institution, we value meaningful dialogue and believe that we are stronger when we can pause, listen, and reflect—even when it challenges us to reconsider our approach. We hope that this portal will be an ever-evolving place that will continue to grow, develop, and ensure that we listen to one another in a spirit of civility and common cause.

Observations: Continue reading

Facts Don’t Matter: Academic Research Undergoes The Ultimate Integrity Meltdown

Heather MacDonald, whose Congressional testimony Ethics Alarms noted here, writes in the Wall Street Journal,

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is a peer-reviewed journal that claims to publish “only the highest quality scientific research.” Now, the authors of a 2019 PNAS article are disowning their research simply because I cited it.

Psychologists Joseph Cesario of Michigan State and David Johnson of the University of Maryland analyzed 917 fatal police shootings of civilians from 2015 to test whether the race of the officer or the civilian predicted fatal police shootings. Neither did. Once “race specific rates of violent crime” are taken into account, the authors found, there are no disparities among those fatally shot by the police. These findings accord with decades of research showing that civilian behavior is the greatest influence on police behavior.

In September 2019, I cited the article’s finding in congressional testimony. I also referred to it in a City Journal article, in which I noted that two Princeton political scientists, Dean Knox and Jonathan Mummolo, had challenged the study design. Messrs. Cesario and Johnson stood by their findings. Even under the study design proposed by Messrs. Knox and Mummolo, they wrote, there is again “no significant evidence of anti-black disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by the police.”

My June 3 Journal op-ed quoted the PNAS article’s conclusion verbatim. It set off a firestorm at Michigan State. The university’s Graduate Employees Union pressured the MSU press office to apologize for the “harm it caused” by mentioning my article in a newsletter. The union targeted physicist Steve Hsu, who had approved funding for Mr. Cesario’s research. MSU sacked Mr. Hsu from his administrative position. PNAS editorialized that Messrs. Cesario and Johnson had “poorly framed” their article—the one that got through the journal’s three levels of editorial and peer review.

Mr. Cesario told this page that Mr. Hsu’s dismissal could narrow the “kinds of topics people can talk about, or what kinds of conclusions people can come to.” Now he and Mr. Johnson have themselves jeopardized the possibility of politically neutral scholarship. On Monday they retracted their paper. They say they stand behind its conclusion and statistical approach but complain about its “misuse,” specifically mentioning my op-eds.

The authors don’t say how I misused their work.

In a move redolent of Soviet-style retroactive censorship, Michigan State University deleted its press release promoting the study, which had said in part, Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Michael Shellenberger

Michael Shellenberger was a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” and he was and is the founder and president of Environmental Progress. Now he has a  best-selling  book, Apocalypse Never, published at the end of last month. I haven’t read it, and I wouldn’t have the expertise to know whether it was right or wrong. It could be that he is violently rejecting the official climate change hysterics line to fill a profitable contrarian niche, though that would be out of character based on his reputation. It may just be that he is telling the truth, and exposing what was, or should have been, pretty evident for a long time. As he puts it his article,

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening, it’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30, so I may seem like a strange person to be saying this.

But as an energy expert asked by the US Congress to provide objective expert testimony and invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to serve as an Expert Reviewer of its next Assessment Report, I feel an obligation to apologize for how badly we environmentalists have misled the public.

Well, we knew that, didn’t we? The usual people denied it, but was so, so obvious that from Al Gore on, this was science weaponized for political and partisan purposes, by scientists seeking grants and peer approval. One doomsday prediction after another came and went, one model after another failed, and yet the refrain persisted. Climate scientists who were tempted to break ranks were intmidated: as galileo demonstarted, it is not a field often distinguished by courage and sacrifice. Shellenberger writes,

“[U]ntil last year, I mostly avoided speaking out against the climate scare. Partly because I was embarrassed. After all, I am as guilty of alarmism as any other environmentalist. For years, I referred to climate change as an ‘existential’ threat to human civilization and called it a ‘crisis.’ But mostly, I was scared. I remained quiet about the climate disinformation campaign because I was afraid of losing friends and funding. The few times I summoned the courage to defend climate science from those who misrepresent it I suffered harsh consequences. And so I mostly stood by and did next to nothing as my fellow environmentalists terrified the public.”

The cancel culture is after Shellenberger even as I write this, for he’s perceived as a traitor.  Forbes, which initially published his mea culpa, pulled it down after being bombarded with social media protests, then gave no substantive explanation for why. Well, they really didn’t have to, I suppose.

Shellenberger lists “some facts few people know,” such as,

  • Humans are not causing a ‘sixth mass extinction’
  • The Amazon is not ‘the lungs of the world’
  • Climate change is not definitively making natural disasters worse
  • Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
  • The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
  • Carbon emissions are declining in most rich nations and have declined in Britain, Germany, and France from the mid-1970s
  • Netherlands is becoming richer, not poorer while adapting to life below sea level
  • We produce 25 per cent more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter

…and more, then later lists some of the conclusions from his book, among them:

  • Factories and modern farming are key to human liberation and environmental progress
  • The most important thing for saving the environment is producing more food, particularly meat, on less land
  • The most important thing for reducing air pollution and carbon emissions is moving from wood to coal to petroleum to natural gas to uranium
  • 100 per cent renewables would require increasing the land used for energy from today’s 0.5 pc to 50 pc
  • ‘Free-range’ beef would require 20 times more land and produce 300 pc more emissions

…and he asks, “Why were we so misled?”

We know the answer to that, too.

Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 7/6/2020: Updates On Baseball, The Pandemic, The News Media, And The Little Girl Who Sang “Tomorrow” When We Needed To Hear It…Like Now

Chin up, everyone!

“Annie” opened in the gloom of the Carter Presidency and the Watergate hangover, and it’s hit ballad, “Tomorrow,” sung by a relentlessly optimistic orphan with her scruffy dog at her side, , became a sensation until everyone got sick of it.

Unlike so many child phenoms, there was a bright tomorrow for the original Annie, Andrea McArdle, the 12-year-old with the freakish belt.  She never made the leap to movies, but she has had a steller stage career that’s still going strong, aided by the fact that puberty was good to her, and her voice mellowed without losing its clarion strength. 

After “Annie,” McArdlehad starring roles on Broadway in  “Starlight Express,” “Les Miz,” “State Fair,” and as Belle in “Beauty and The Beast.” For the last 20 years she’s continuously starred in regional production and tours, national and international, of such shows as “Cabaret,””Gypsy” (as Mama Rose), “Mame” and “Hello Dolly,” and several times in “Annie,” though now, in middle age, she plays the little girl-hating comic villain, Miss Hannigan (third photo, first row).

But she can belt out “Tomorrow”…as should we all.

1. Wuhan Virus Ethics Train Wreck update:

  • Apparently the memo has gone out to the mainstream media that highlighting the George Floyd Freakout/Black Lives Matter mob’s anti-America rampage isn’t helping the cause of getting rid of President Trump. Thus it’s back to fear-mongering about the pandemic. Sunday’s Times was filled with giant, scary maps with big red blotches, and the headline was “Virus Inundates Texas, Fed by Abiding Mistrust of Government Orders.” The only non-editorial content in that headline is “Texas.” Further down on page one, another headline about a story that literally has nothing to do with the virus begins, “As Virus Rages…”

In contrast, there was no mention of how protesters danced on the American flag and chanted “America was never great!” during D.C.’s Fourth of July celebration, or how D.C.’s BLM flack mayor Muriel Bowser allowed the mob to block traffic returning to Virginia after the fireworks.

  • When I saw this story last night, I predicted that it would receive far more publicity than the death of a relatively little known 41-year-old Broadway actor normally would warrant. The reason is that  Nick Codero died from a series horrific complications after being infected–a series of strokes, heart failure, lung failure, the necessary amputation of his leg.

The severity of his reaction without having any underlying conditions is obviously an anomaly, but I see on my Facebook feed that friends are already hyping it to argue that America should remain in lockdown until everyone is living on the dole and wearing rags.

  • It’s not going to work now. People are right not to trust “government orders,” since the states and cities have abused their power with arbitrary restrictions and inconsistent enforcement, made fatal miscalculations (like Gov. Cuomo’s dumping of infected seniors in nursing homes), and the waffling CDC, including Dr. Fauci, has no credibility at all. (Rand Paul’s criticism of Fauci in the Senate hearing last week was  fair and appropriate.) Major League Baseball, having committed to the season starting this month, is noting infections among players, getting them quarantined,  and moving forward, in contrast to the NBA cancelling its season after a couple of infections in the Spring.

Good. Play Ball! Continue reading

And Today’s Worthless Study Is: “2020’s Most Patriotic States In America”

In plenty of time for the weird Fourth of July celebration coming up, a financial website called WalletHub spent a lot of time and money researching the a question nobody seriously would ask: How do the 50 states rank in strength of patriotism from best to worst?

The study came up with an answer, and the answer is being dutifully reported in newspapers and websites as if there is any reason in the universe to believe it. New Jersey ranked last in patriotism, the New York Post gloated. #1? New Hampshire!

The study report is here.

You can go to the link and check it out, or watch this:

The significance of the study results is zero. Nothing. The study consists of misleading and arbitrary data assigning numbers according to subjective criteria to measure something that cannot be measured because it cannot be conclusively defined. Nonetheless, the study is willing to present findings like this:

What, exactly, does this tell us? What is the gravamen of a difference of 4.42 points in the average score of “red” vs. “blue” states? I have no idea. I don’t think the researchers do either. Continue reading