Notice Of Retraction: No, Nora O’Donnell Did NOT Use A Photo of A Trump Rally To Falsely Show Enthusiastic Hispanic Biden Supporters [UPDATED]

Item #2 in today’s warm-up was wrong, false, and based on bad information that was, I believe, deliberately posted by others on the web to deceive. As you can see by viewing the entire context of the report, O’Donnell and CBS did nothing unethical or misleading.  This screenshot

..shows a chyron that had been up  through several video clips, and at the second the screen above appeared, the voiceover referenced Trump’s Hispanic support.

There is no way anyone who had watched the segment could have concluded that the shot was intended to fool viewers into thinking those were Biden supporters.  The claims to the contrary were deliberate disinformation, and they hooked me, in part because of confirmation bias, as I believe the news media is capable of even the most dastardly lies in their campaign to mislead the public, and in part because I didn’t think anyone would claim something this easily checked  if it wasn’t true.

Well, @AZ GOP LD 25, a ” Trump Victory Field Organizer Realtor/Owner of Tracy DuCharme Group” did: she’s a liar. Then The Last Refuge, a right wing website did, and its false story was picked up by The Citizens Free Press, the news aggregator.

Then I spread the lie further.

Careless, and stupid. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 9/18/2020: Boy, It’s Hard To Write About Ethics When What You Really Want To Do Is Run Amuck With A Bloody Sword

I don’t even want to talk about the last two days, except to note that what has me proto-homicidal has nothing to do with anything we’ve been discussing on Ethics Alarms.

1. Now THIS is incompetent phishing: “Verizon” contacted me to say,

Dear User :Your incoming mails were placed on pending status due to the recent upgrade to our database, and also exceeded the storage limit of 1 GB, which is defined by the administrator, are running at 99.8 gigabyte. You can not send or receive new messages until you re-validate your mailbox.

  • I no longer have any relationship with Verizon.
  • Verizon no longer runs an email service. It sold its email users to AOL.
  • The letter is ungrammatical.
  • I received that email, along with about 50 others at the same time, telling me I was no longer getting email.
  • “Verizon’s” address was “bavaria2@centurylink.net”
  • The “letter” was signed “VeriZon.”

If you fall for something like that, you are a walking, talking mark, and incompetent at life.

2.  Why doesn’t the public trust the news media? It must be all those Trump “fake news” lies!  CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell used a photo from a “Latinos for Trump”  event in Phoenix to accompany a report on Joe Biden’s Latino event in Florida. The CBS’s chyron read, “Biden pitches crucial Latino voters during Florida campaign stop.”

Here was what viewers saw: Continue reading

Waning Day Ethics, 9/17/2020: An Unscientific Endorsement, A Frivolous Lawsuit, And Misunderstood Bomb-Throwers

1. Scientific American embarrasses itself. …like so, so many others. “Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly,” intone the magazine’s editors. Wrong. They are doing it to grandstand, and you can’t be more unserious than that. There is a reason SA hasn’t done this in 175 years—it’s a dumb thing to do. They don’t have any special expertise or perspective regarding national leadership, and scientific acumen is not a qualification for office. The alleged reason for the magazine’s endorsement of Joe Biden is its claim that the pandemic’s casualties would have been less had the President said and done things differently. This is total supposition, of course. “He was warned many times in January and February about the onrushing disease,” SA says, quoting juvenile anti-Trump source Axios. That’s odd, since those crack scientists in the CDC are on record as downplaying the seriousness of the virus, and even minimizing the need for masks.  More: “These lapses accelerated the spread of disease through the country—particularly in highly vulnerable communities that include people of color, where deaths climbed disproportionately to those in the rest of the population.” These people are scientists? The reasons for higher rates of infection among the poor and minority populations are many, and the interaction among them still undetermined. Lower levels of general health,  increased rates of illnesses like diabetes and conditions like obesity, more  crowded housing, a lack of the ability to stay at home—even a persistent rumor that blacks were immune have played a part, and nobody knows what measured would have changed anything.

“If almost everyone in the U.S. wore masks in public, it could save about 66,000 lives by the beginning of December, according to projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine.” Yeah, scientists have been doing really well with their projections in the pandemic, like the projections that 5% of the population would be infected. Since the research and pronouncements of scientists have been a) inconsistent and b) politicized from the start, it is disgraceful for Scientific American to pretend that any clear signals were being sent, or that there is any reason to believe another “projection, ” except as a useful way to attack the President. There is still  a strong argument that rejecting the scientists in favor of following the advice of economists would have placed the nation in a better situation.

The Scientific American endorsement is an example of the politicization of science, and explains why  scientists cannot be trusted. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias! But Why Is Fox Almost The Only News Source Reporting This Story?”

This is kind of an anti-ethical ethics comment by Steve-O-in NJ, but a useful one. Taking off from the juvenile “mean girls” criticism the First Lady gets from the news media regarding whatever she does, says or wears (while anything worn by the previous First Lady, no matter how hideous, was inevitably praised as a fashion coup), Steve lists other examples of “middle school values,” which are all things kids do, say and think before their ethics alarms are operational.  I’ve numbered them for reference purposes. There are sixteen in all. Most of them, though not all, are rendered moot by even a rudimentary understanding of the Golden Rule. Ethics barely peaks is head out in #13. Barely.

Here is Steve-O-in NJ‘s Comment Of The Day on the post, “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias! But Why Is Fox Almost The Only News Source Reporting This Story?”:

They also busted shoes, no pun intended about her wearing sneakers when accompanying the President to the areas affected by the hurricane in 2017.

It’s a middle school value, that something that is cool when it is done by something one you like, is unforgivable when it is done by someone you don’t like.

Other values: Continue reading

Constitution? What Constitution? A “White Lives Don’t Matter” Program In San Francisco

This is just one more Exhibit in the case to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt  that the current “movement” exploiting the death of George Floyd is not concerned with seeking equality of opportunity or eliminating “systemic racism.” Instead, it seeks to install a system that favors races it cares about over others. You have to admit, the evidence is damning.  If this were a trial, I’d request a directed verdict.

From the S.F. Gate:

Mayor London Breed Announces Launch of Pilot Program to Provide Basic Income to Black and Pacific Islander Women During Pregnancy …

Mayor London N. Breed, in partnership with Expecting Justice, today announced the launch of the Abundant Birth Project, a pilot program that provides targeted basic income to women during pregnancy and after giving birth. The pilot will provide an unconditional monthly income supplement of $1,000 to approximately 150 Black and Pacific Islander women in San Francisco for the duration of their pregnancy and for the first six months of their baby’s life, with a goal of eventually providing a supplement for up to two years post-pregnancy. Expecting Justice, a collective impact initiative led by Dr. Zea Malawa at the San Francisco Department of Public Health and supported by the Hellman Foundation and the UCSF California Preterm Birth Initiative, will study the resulting health impacts of the pilot program, which is the first of its kind in the United States….

The program is racially discriminatory on its face, and Breed, Dr. Zea Malawa, the San Francisco Department of Public Health,  the Hellman Foundation and the UCSF  are either civically ignorant, racists, dumb, hoping to get away with something they know is illegal, or some combination of two or more of these.  So are other funders mentioned in the mayor’s press release:Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Genentech, the Kellogg Foundation, San Francisco Health Plan, Tipping Point, Economic Security Project, Walter and Elise Haas, San Francisco Foundation, and the Friedman Family Foundation.

The program cannot withstand the inevitable legal challenge. Eugene Volokh, a Constitutional law specialist, explains, Continue reading

Now I’ve Actually SEEN “Cuties,”So I know What I’m Writing About…

What does Barbara Streisand have to do with “Cuties,” you ask?

And, from my perspective, I have been taught, once again, that I should not rely on the opinions of others. Why is that such a difficult lesson to process? I bet I’ve “learned” it a thousand times, and yet here we are.

I initially wrote about pundit Rod Dreher’s angry assessment of the Netflix hit (it is one of the most streamed productions in its history) in this post. I think it was clear that I hadn’t seen “Cuties” myself, but I should not have written that he was disgusted “with good reason.” Veteran commenter Humble Talent provided Ethics Alarms with his critical assessment of “Cuties” in his Comment of the Day; it was negative as well. Having now watched the film with my wife last night (I regarded the session as work, not recreation), I understand what Dreher’s perspective was, and  I cannot say that Humble’s critique is “wrong.”

I disagree with both of them, however.

My thoughts on “Cuties”:

1.  I did not enjoy the movie. I would not watch it again. I would watch “1918,” “Parasite,”The Circle“…even “JFK,” “Ghost” and “La La Land,’  all movies I felt were at best disappointing and at worst ridiculously over-hyped, before I would sit through “Cuties” again. (I would rather watch “Cuties” than revisit “The Deer Hunter,” but then I would rather have my fingernails  pulled out than revisit “The Deer Hunter.”)

2. That doesn’t not mean I think “Cuties” is a bad movie. It’s a very good movie, for the audience it was made for. (“Ghost” is not a good movie, and anyone who thinks so is a tasteless sap.) This isn’t just a “chick flick,” it is a flick that men should be warned not to see, and possibly banned from trying.

3. As a man, I felt like a voyeur watching these semi-pubescent girls try to navigate their emerging sexuality and the corrosive influence of the culture. It’s not that I’m uninterested in this aspect of a reality I didn’t experience, it’s just that…ick. My wife, on the other hand, who grew up with three sisters, kept asking, “So what was supposed to be so objectionable about this?”

4. If art is supposed to convey truth, “Cuties” succeeds, I suspect. Of course, just because a story is true or embodies truth doesn’t mean it needs to be made into a movie. This precise topic has been dealt with before, but never so directly, at least in any movie that has been widely publicized.

5. I agree with Humble’s complaint that the director—a woman, of course—focused the camera on the girl’s bodies as they gyrated and twerked to the verge of salaciousness. I’m sure she would have a good answer for why she made this choice, and why it was artistically valid, but it was still a troubling choice.

6. I thought the girls were all excellent, and several were remarkable. That does not mitigate one of my ethical objections to the film, which is that juveniles were given this kind of material to absorb and experience. It doesn’t matter that they performed it well, and it doesn’t matter that the movie could only be made with pre-teen actresses. Nor will it change my view if they all grow up to be well-adjusted and happy adults: that’s moral luck. The actresses were below the age of consent, and should not be asked to/ compelled to perform such material. The parents who consented for them are irresponsible and unethical, just as Dakota Fanning’s parents were unethical to allow her to be in a  graphic rape scene in “Hounddog,” just as Brooke Shields’ parents were unethical to allow her to appear as a pre-teen prostitute in “Pretty Baby,” just as Linda Blair’s parents were unethical to allow her to play the possessed girl in “The Exorcist.” I  may ask child performer advocate Paul Peterson to author a guest column on his view of “Cuties.” I think I know what he will say.

7. One of the major complaints about the film is that it will appeal to pedophiles. That’s an unfair reason to criticize a movie: the fact that sick people will like it for the wrong reasons. I refuse to believe that pedophiles are the intended audience, nor that either the director or Netflix were seeking to entertain men who have a sexual fixation on little girls. I’m sure “Seabiscuit” titillated some people who fantasize about having sex with horses.

8. The runaway success of “Cuties” is as fine an example of “The Streisand Effect” as we are likely to find. The only reason a film like this, focusing on a Muslim pre-teen coping with her family stresses by becoming obsessed with sexually provocative dancing that is rampant among girls just slightly older, becomes an cultural phenomenon is if it is controversial. Critics like Dreher guaranteed that many more people would watch “Cuties” than the subject matter would normally draw. It’s not titillating or enjoyable to watch 11-year-olds get into sexually provocative costumes and make-up and act like go-go dancers in a cage. It’s creepy, and it’s supposed to be creepy. But Dreher and the other would-be conservative cultural gate-keepers made sure that the pervs would find “Cuties” and settle down to watch with their lotion handy. Good job, everybody!

Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias! But Why Is Fox Almost The Only News Source Reporting This Story?

This seems such egregious negligence by the mainstream media that it’s almost defiant.

Records from the Justice Department show that at least several dozen phones belonging to members of Mueller’s Russian collusion investigation team were wiped of information. The reasons are supposedly forgotten passcodes,  screen damage, loss of the devices and other explanations, including intentional deletion. All of this occurred before the Justice Department inspector general’s office could review the devices and, obviously, the information they contained.

Hey, what’s newsworthy about that? When I first read about this  days ago, I assumed it would be a major scandal. The mainstream media didn’t even treat it as news. Leaving the reporting to Fox, the story is now pigeonholed as a right wing conspiracy theory. But it’s not a theory! Destroying evidence is a crime, and a lot of evidence related to the investigation was destroyed. Why? Shouldn’t all legitimate news sources be asking why? Continue reading

Observations On “The Circle” (2017)

The best thing about “The Circle,” the dystopian social media-on-steroids drama starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, is that you now can watch it as part of a double feature with Netflix’s new “The Social Dilemma,” and consider how much of the movie is coming horribly true. Without offering too many spoilers, the film is the story of a young woman (Watson) who believes she has found her dream job working for an Amazon/Facebook-like Big Tech company run by creepily a slick and charismatic Tom Hanks. He is the prophet of over-sharing, developing and peddling products that will feed every aspect of everyone’s life into Big Data-storing and manipulating computers and banish privacy forever, all for the Greater Good, of course. The young woman, Mae, is quickly corrupted, and soon a force within “The Circle,” as Tom’s creation calls itself, to expand and use the company’s power to facilitate universal, indeed mandatory voting, for example. Law enforcement! Social control!

Mae’s epiphany is that secrets are bad, the equivalent of lies. She decides to become the first person to share every waking moment—except three minutes to use the toilet—with Hanks’ ubiquitous social network.

The movie, which is basically a long “Dark Mirror” episode, was panned by critics for its predictability, lack of originality and unambiguous ethical issues. They were right. (The movie was a box office success anyway, because apparently fans of Harry Potter will watch anything with Emma Watson in it. Watson has even less screen presence as an adult actress than fellow ex-child star Natalie Portman, something I wouldn’t have believed possible.) Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/16/2020: For Some Unexplained Reason, Police Officers Are Feeling Unappreciated

1. Even humor sites have to do better than this...FARK is an amusing news aggregator that headlines links to interesting stories from around the web with facetious comments, puns and snark, most of the time avoiding gratuitous political slant, This headline, however, was an outright deception:  Sure the police might have some bad apples, but a review of 2,400 cases only found misconduct 54% of the time.

If you read the story, you will find that those were not just cases, but cases in which innocent people had been convicted of crimes. A study showing 54% of all cases showing police misconduct would be a damning result, but if someone is wrongly convicted of a crime, there is likely to be misconduct somewhere in the process. For those cases, 54% strikes me as low. Moreover, while the headline implies that all of the misconduct found in the study was attributable to police, that’s not true either. The study found that in  the cases studied, 54% showed misconduct by police or prosecutors.

FARK’s headline was just gratuitous and unjust police-bashing. Not funny.

2. For the record…it’s 5:58 am, and I’m still furious over the cretinous response from the Boston sportswriter I discussed in item #4 of last night’s late warm-up. Continue reading

Big Stupid In Little Miami

In this public school story out of Ohio, the only ones who didn’t embarrass themselves were two suspended students.

When the Little Miami High School football team took the field in the Hamilton Township on September 11, one player carried a Thin Blue Line flag and another a Thin Red Line flag alongside the American flag. The boys, Brady Williams, and Jarad Bentley, were honoring their fathers as well as the first responders in the Twin Towers tragedy. Williams’ father is a police officer, and his son said he wanted to honor all the cops who lost their lives trying to save others on 9/11. Bentley’s father is a firefighter. “If it had been him killed on 9/11, I would have wanted someone to do it for him,” he said.

The gesture got both students suspended indefinitely. Their mistake, according to school officials: asking for permission, and carrying the flags on the field anyway after they were turned down.  “We can’t have students who decide to do something anyway after they’ve been told that they shouldn’t be doing it,” said the school’s athletic director. But why was a gesture of respect to first responders deemed inappropriate on the anniversary of the attacks? The athletic director says he saw the flags as  political, presumably in the context of the George Floyd Freakout.  “We did not want to place ourselves in a circumstance where another family might want a different flag to come out of the tunnel, one that may be [one that] many other families may not agree with from a political perspective,” he said.

I wonder if a student carrying a Black Lives Matter flag would have been treated as harshly. (No I don’t.) Continue reading