Category Archives: Research and Scholarship

Now THAT’S A Terrible Analogy…

Analogy

Daniel L. Byman, a Brookings Institute researcher, authored an article on the organization’s site that would be fun to dissect in its entirety, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. I also have confidence that any half-objective reader can easily see through it without my assistance. Byman is determined to show that radical Islamic terrorism is nothing for U.S. citizens to get their panties in a bunch over, and like so much coming out of places like Brookings these days, his essay is part brief to absolve President Obama from all criticism. Byman also excels in torturing statistics to make his case, leading to the analogy in question:

“With this picture in mind, the challenges facing the United States [in dealing with terrorism] can be broken down into three issues. The first, of course, is the real risk to American lives and those of U.S. allies. In absolute terms, these are small in the United States and only slightly larger in Europe. The average American is more likely to be shot by an armed toddler than killed by a terrorist.”

I’ve had this quote stalled on a potential post list for a while, but the recent discussions here about argument fallacies revived it.

How many things are wrong with this analogy? Let’s see: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

Finally! A Complete List Of Argument Fallacies…

Finally!

Finally!

Logical fallacies are as pernicious as rationalizations, and also as popular. Ethics Alarms been searching for a comprehensive list of the former that is as complete as this site’s constantly growing list of the latter-–I can’t compile both, and EUREKA! I found one, the excellent work of scientist and prolific blogger Don Lindsay. He goes far beyond the most commonly referenced fallacies, such as “No True Scotsman” and  “The Texas Sharpshooter,” “Equivocation,” “Straw Man Arguments, “Appeal to Authority,” and the one so many people get wrong, “Ad Hominem.”  Don has identified, complied and described 93 of them, each an obstacle to productive discourse and honest inquiries into ethics and other topics.

Wonderful.

They are… Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Ethics Hero: Law Professor/Blogger Ann Althouse, Because We Have Reached The Point Where Any Blogger, Journalist, Pundit Or Citizen Who Helps Expose The Disgraceful Debasement Of Ethics And Duty By American Journalists For Partisan Goals Is A Hero, And We Need As Many Of Them As It Takes To Stop This Crap…

media_biasAnn Althouse responded sharplyto Ryan Lizza’s hit piece on Donald Trump at the New Yorker, which included the statement, “The Emoluments Clause has never been tested in the courts, but most scholars seem to agree that if Trump doesn’t take the prophylactic approach to his conflicts there is only one other anti-corruption clause in the Constitution available as a remedy: impeachment.”

She wrote,

This is the level of analysis we get at The New Yorker now? It’s on-its-face ludicrous to suggest that “most scholars” could possibly have an opinion on such a specific issue. Who are the “scholars” in Ryan Lizza’s world? They don’t sound like scholars to me. It sounds political, not scholarly.

And I do note Lizza’s use of the weasel word “seem.” Even so, the front-page teaser is so dispiritingly political. I would like to read some serious analysis of this subject, and I am a New Yorker subscriber.

Why are these articles presented in a form that is so off-putting to anyone who’s not tripping on Trump hate?

Well, we know the answer to that one. They are in such a form because the news media is speaking to a progressive Democratic audience—you know, like the reporters and pundits—that wants to believe that Trump’s Presidency is illicit, and this audience is the target of the Democrat/progressive effort to undermine his Presidency from the start. The journalists are hoping to influence the non-committed, the middle of the road, the inattentive but gullible center that can be recruited, the media believes, to its cause. That’s why. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, Research and Scholarship

Ethics Quiz: The Truth About Snopes

"So what? What matters is the quality of work we do, not how we do it!"

“So what? What matters is the quality of work we do, not how we do it!”

Ethics Alarms had already declared the fact-checking website Snopes.com untrustworthy,  based on a series of partisan posts that intentionally muddied the factual waters rather than purifying them, when Facebook named it as one of its select gate-keepers to protect its readers from “fake news.” This was not wise,  since a fact-checker who slants the facts is as useful as an accounting firm that will cook the books for a price. I laid out a series of conditions before I would ever use the service again, and so should Facebook. My non-negotiable demands before I would visit the site, reference it positively, or use it as authority were:

  • Getting out of the political fact-checking business.
  • Firing researchers who have been conclusively shown to engage in biased and shoddy research
  • Confessing its betrayal of trust and capitulation to partisan bias, apologizing, and taking remedial measures.

However, there is more to consider. In an exclusive report so lurid that I assume it is credible only because publishing it without iron-clad verification would be asking for a lawsuit and worse, the Daily Mail has just revealed that…

  • When Snopes  was founded by spouses Barbara and David Mikkelson, they used a letterhead claiming they were a non-existent society to give credibility to their research.
  • The couple is divorced, and Barbara claimed in legal documents that David embezzled $98,000 of company money to spend on “himself and prostitutes.”
  • Now operating Snopes himself, David Mikkelson’s new wife Elyssa Young is employed by the website as “an administrator.” Before that, she  worked as an escort and porn actress.
  • She also ran  for Congress in 2004 as a Libertarian on a ‘Re-Defeat Bush’ platform
  • Kim LaCapria, one of the site’s  main researchers and the author of the baised and misleading “fact-check” on Hillary Clinton’s representation of a child rapist, previously had a blog called “ViceVixen.”

The article also includes this:

David Mikkelson told the Dailymail.com that Snopes does not have a “standardized procedure” for fact-checking “since the nature of this material can vary widely.’” He said the process “involves multiple stages of editorial oversight, so no output is the result of a single person’s discretion.” He also said the company has no set requirements for fact-checkers because the variety of the work “would be difficult to encompass in any single blanket set of standards. Accordingly, our editorial staff is drawn from diverse backgrounds; some of them have degrees and/or professional experience in journalism, and some of them don’t.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Should any or all of the items in the Daily Mail story, it it is accurately reported, disqualify Snopes from being trusted by Facebook, its readers, or anyone else?

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

Ethics Alarms Presents “Fake News” Friday! Episode I: Poynter’s Code of Principles

fake-news-sites

Poynter is a serious and justly respected  nonprofit school for journalism and journalism ethics organization. Naturally, it has been drawn into the “fake news” debate, which is unfortunate, since the issue itself has arisen not so much as part of a much-need effort to purge the new and old news media of biased and misleading news reporting, but as part of partisan attempt by the mainstream news media and others to find some explanation, any explanation, for Donald Trump’s election that doesn’t involve a genuine public rejection of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Poynter, as far as I’ve been able to determine, is scrupulously non-partisan, or perhaps hides its Democrat tilt better than the rest of its profession. Now it is being used by those who are not so trustworthy.

Poynter was in the news yesterday as a result of Facebook’s announcement that it will start “fact-checking, labeling, and burying fake news and hoaxes in its News Feed. Mark Zuckerberg announced that his social media platform will collaborate with a small list of media organizations, including Snopes, Factcheck.org, ABC News, and PolitiFact to accomplish this, and noted that these are part of an international fact-checking network under the guidance of Poynter.

Here’s a fact to check: Snopes, Factcheck.org, ABC News, the Associated Press, and PolitiFact are all partisan-biased operations to a greater or lesser extent. Facebook itself is a partisan biased organization. That Facebook would blandly cite three of these four to reassure anyone but the Democratic National Committee is proof positive that this is a cynical, untrustworthy exercise. Continue reading

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Filed under Facebook, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions, Research and Scholarship, The Internet

Ethics Hero: Bill Gates

Funny, he doesn't LOOK evil...

Funny, he doesn’t LOOK evil...

Yes, it’s really this bad: a prominent liberal and Democrat qualifies as an Ethics Hero because he’s willing to give Donald Trump a chance.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told CNBC this morning that after speaking with the President Elect, he believes that Donald Trump has an opportunity to establish “American leadership through innovation,” Trump’s fellow billionaire told  “Squawk Box”:

“A lot of his message has been about … where he sees things not as good as he’d like…But in the same way President Kennedy talked about the space mission and got the country behind that, I think whether it’s education or stopping epidemics … [or] in this energy space, there can be a very upbeat message that [Trump’s] administration [is] going to organize things, get rid of regulatory barriers, and have American leadership through innovation….Of course, my whole career has been along those lines. And he was interested in listening to that. And I’m sure there will be further conversation.”

What could possibly prompt Gates to keep his head while all around him are losing theirs and blaming it on Trump? I see six possibilities: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

“Fake News” Of The Day: Nate Silver Says Clinton “Almost Certainly” Would Be President If Not For Comey

A bit bored, are we, Nate?

A bit bored, are we, Nate? Not a football fan?

The Left’s fury over the fact that their certifiably awful candidate somehow managed to lose to even more certifiably awful Donald Trump is unabated. Indeed, it seems to be getting worse, as Democrats, progressives and social justice warriors continue to reveal themselves as poor losers and lousy citizens—but spectacular hypocrites—by both trying to undo the election and attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the President Elect before he even moves in to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At the same time, the Democratic Party is teaching our children, if they read Politico, that denying accountability and blaming others for your own botches is acceptable adult behavior. It wasn’t their fault that they managed to blow an election against an adversary they publicly wished for. It was the Russians! The FBI! The Electoral College! The news media! The voters hate women–even women hate women!

It was Hillary Clinton, of course, but never mind. Yesterday’s headline in The Washington Examiner and a few other news sources are sure to give the Democrats solace: Nate Silver (the acclaimed statistics guru who nonetheless joined other poll-readers to pronounce Hillary an odds on favorite to win on November 12 but with a bit less certainly than the rest, so he remains a genius by being less wrong), it said, had pronounced that “Clinton ‘almost certainly’ would be president if not for Comey.”

This is fake news. Why? I could go into detail about why it’s an irresponsible opinion and based on logical fallacies as well as confirmation bias, which Nate is supposed to understand, but that wouldn’t make the story fake news. It is fake news because Silver never said what the headline claims.

Silver, who actual writes up positions he believes are accurate on his blog, apparently was bored on Sunday so he began musing in a series of tweets.

“Comey had a large, measurable impact on the race. Harder to say with Russia/Wikileaks because it was drip-drip-drip,” he said in the first. This became, in the Examiner story, “Comey had a large, measurable impact on the race,” leaving out the second part of the tweet, the part that meant “I think, but it’s impossible to be sure because other things were happening too.”

I have to say, Nate is really sloppy here. One way Comey had a larger impact than he should have was because of the way the Clinton campaign reacted to his first letter, which he was ethically obligated to write. They sicced other lawyers on him (lawyers who were looking for jobs in the upcoming Clinton Administration); they even accused him of breaking the law, which was ridiculous. They made themselves, that is, Hillary, look guilty by attacking the same guy they had called a great American just a couple of months earlier for not recommending that the candidate be indicted. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Social Media