Update: Unethical Research, Unethical Headline, Unethical Media Report: “Many Parents Will Say Kids Made Them Happier. They’re Probably Lying”

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Yij = β0j + β1jX1ij + β2j Zij + Eij

Reader and commenter Alexander Cheezem issued an energetic objection to my post about another happiness study, which you can read, along with my rebuttal, in the comment threads to the post, here. His main two complaints were that I didn’t read the study itself, and that I unfairly called it  policy advocacy disguised as objective social science research.

I didn’t read the study itself because the only link the Post provided was not accessible without joining a service I didn’t care to join, or take the time trying. Alexander kept referring to a “direct link,” an unfortunate and misleading description of a link that goes to a page with a link to the study that doesn’t respond when you click on it, and are directed to “register.” [ CORRECTION: This is what I thought at the time. It has been pointed out to me that the first time the reporter linked to “research,” it wasn’t the study she was writing about, but another, behind a paywall. The second link on “research” did go to a live link to the actual study. Having been frustrated once, I assumed that the second link would also be to the same  inaccessible link. My error—though I’m furious at the Posts’s incompetence—and I apologize to Alexander.]

Other Bill, who flagged the Washington Post headline and story initially, has provided a free and direct link It is here.

I am relieved to find that reading the entire study revealed nothing that I didn’t discern from what the Post reporter wrote, and checking the accessible links she provided. (Obviously, it would have been preferable to read the whole study initially, and I would have, if a functioning link was provided, as it should have been.). Let me take that back a bit: the study itself was worse than I thought.

Here’s why: Continue reading

Unethical Research, Unethical Headline, Unethical Media Report: “Many Parents Will Say Kids Made Them Happier. They’re Probably Lying”

I think this made me 12% less happy than when I passed the bar exam...

I think this made me 12% less happy than when I passed the bar exam…

[An UPDATE is HERE]

On the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Ana Swenson breathlessly writes “that research suggests …[p]eople who have kids in the United States and in many countries around the world report being less happy than people who don’t have kids.”

Ah-HA! This must be why DirecTV is certain that promoting a device that it facetiously suggests would make your kid disappear will appeal to its customers!

Except that Swenson’s headline is click-bait, her article is irresponsible and incompetent, and the study is politically motivated junk, as such things usually are.

“Research” doesn’t suggest this politically manufactured finding.  A single dubious study may suggest it to those who already are inclined to be dubious about parenthood, and who could also be persuaded to buy valuable swampland property in Florida. If you aren’t smart enough to bale on both the “study” and Swenson after this statement central to the issue, I have little hope for you:

“On average, an American parent reports being 12 percent unhappier than a non-parent in America – the biggest gap in the 22 countries the researchers looked at, followed distantly by Ireland.”  

What (the hell) does it mean to be “12 per cent unhappier,” or “12 per cent happier”? Happiness is not quantifiable like that, nor can it be measured with that kind of precision, or any kind of precision. Gee, what is the margin of error in that 12 %? Is it 12%, +/- 3%? I’m trying to think of two states of happiness I have experienced in which I could say with any certainty that I was 12% happier/ 47% happier or 71% happier  in one more than the other, and if I can’t determine that, how are a bunch or researches going to do it?

Let’s see—did discovering I had to undergo a circumcision at the age of 30 make me 12% more unhappy than I was when the Red Sox lost Game 6 of the 1986 World Series? Did watching the T-Rex beat the Indominus Rex in the dino-showdown in “Jurassic World” make me 12% happier than when bought our home for a bargain, or 12% less? You know, I really can’t answer that. Both made me happy in different ways. Did my happiness that my dad died the way he wanted, with dignity and in his sleep just short of his 90th birthday, exceed by 12% the happiness I felt when my final performance at my theater company got a deserved standing ovation, though I was also saddened that my dad wasn’t there to see it?

Please, O Wise and Researchers, enlighten me! They can’t. Of course they can’t. Nor can they tell me how to quantify the happiness my son has given his mother and me, even though he has driven and almost certainly will continue to drive us out of our minds with worry and worse on a regular basis, and has cost us a lot of money we will surely miss when we are dreaming about finally seeing Paris. Am I 12 % less happy than I would have been with a son more like I was, a non-rebellious, conventionally obedient, healthy and lucky kid who sailed through school and never got in any serious trouble? No, because then my son wouldn’t be the unique, amazing, gutsy and original individual he is.

Swenson’s report is filled with statements that make it clear that this is politically motivated  entitlement and anti-child propaganda (and thus pro-abortion propaganda). The smoking gun comes early: Continue reading

More Fake News! How Untrustworthy Are Hard Right Websites? THIS Untrustworthy….

How are these for headlines and web news stories?

Apparently the candidates debates have caused amass amnesia about what competitive debating is all about...

Apparently the candidates debates have caused amass amnesia about what competitive debating is all about…

Students support ‘affirmative suicide’ to combat ‘white privilege’ (Red Alert Politics) “The myths of white privilege and institutionalized racism have engulfed nearly every college campus in the country including Harvard University …”

VIDEO: Students debate at Harvard whether whites should kill themselves (eag news) “White lives do not matter, according to a student debater/activist …”

BLM activist advocates white genocide at Harvard  (All Lives Matter) “Video for Harvard white suicide…”

BLM activist advocates white genocide at Harvard … (Daily Wire)  “Debater At Harvard Says White People Should Kill Themselves… Harvard caught in anti-Trump, “death to whites” cover-up”

Debater At Harvard Says White People Should Kill Themselves Because Of Their White Privilege (Louder with Crowder) “Harvard Tries Hiding ‘Debate’ Video: ‘Kill Yourself over White Privilege …”

Activist: White People Should Kill Themselves to Atone For ‘White Privilege’ (Alex Jones’ Infowars): “Student debate highlights shocking anti-white racism at Harvard University”

Good heavens! What’s going on at Harvard?

The answer: Nothing whatsoever. Continue reading

Advocacy Ethics And Larry Tribe’s “Betrayal”

Bought, believed, or both?

Bought, believed, or both?

One of my favorite topics here, the public’s (and news media’s) misunderstanding of legal ethics and the function of lawyers, recently broke into the news with a crash as progressives saw Barack Obama’s constitutional law professor at Harvard and liberal icon Lawrence Tribe go before Congress and testified against the President’s climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan, saying that it was the equivalent of “burning the Constitution.” This has been called every name in the book by progressives, from betrayal to greed to dishonesty.

“Laurence Tribe must not have been sworn in over a Bible today before testifying before Congress, because if he had been, that Bible would have burst into flames after his phony testimony about EPA’s legal authority to set standards for unlimited carbon pollution from power plants,” said David DiMartino, adviser to the Climate Action Campaign.“But I guess we shouldn’t be surprised— a wad of coal industry money burning a hole in your pocket can make you do strange things,” he added.

Indeed, Tribe was hired to represent its interests by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, and is the company’s counsel in a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the EPA plan. That is what lawyers do, and what they exist to do: represent citizens and companies as they seek to avail themselves of their guaranteed right to use the law to protect their interests. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Christiane Amanpour

amanpour

“There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because when you are neutral you are an accomplice. Objectivity doesn’t mean treating all sides equally. It means giving each side a hearing.”

——Christiane Amanpour in 1996, responding to critics who called her reporting on the Bosnian War biased.

Now THIS is an unethical quote, in contrast to the earlier one from Christiane, which I posted yesterday as an “Ethics Quote of the Week.”

I’m posting this one 20 years after it was uttered because…

1. It explains the previous quote from yesterday.

2. It tells us everything we need to know about Christiane, which is to say, she cannot be trusted as a reporter.

3. For some reason I was unaware of it.

4. It appears to have become the motto of all reporters.

5. It is unethical to the core, and

6. A lot of people, including most journalists, don’t know why. Continue reading

The Free Range Mom, Bias, and the Perils Of Blind Loyalty

About  the blind leading the blind---not only is it dangerous, it looks ridiculous to those who can see.

About the blind leading the blind—not only is it dangerous, it looks ridiculous to those who can see.

One of my favorite bloggers just fell into the blind loyalty trap. I’m sympathetic, but this is something that those who accept the responsibility of  teaching us important lessons and clarifying difficult issues must avoid at all costs. Bias makes us stupid, and blind loyalty breeds bias like carrion breeds maggots. It pains me to see Lenore Skenazy, author of the Free Range Kids blog, undermine her credibility like this.

She titled her post Horrible Editorial Chides Mom for Not Predicting Unpredictable Crime. In it, she takes the side of a mother who left her four-year-old son in an unlocked, running van while she picked up her daughter at a northeast school. Someone was drove her van off with her son in it, and subsequently crashed. The boy was unhurt. Under the circumstances, there is nothing horrible about the editorial, which uses the incident—even Skenazy agrees that the mother’s conduct was “dumb”—to caution parents about leaving children in cars. This is the editorial that aroused Skenazy to defend the indefensible:

“A Calgary mom has no doubt learned her lesson. The woman recently left her four-year-old son in her unlocked, running van while she picked up her daughter at a northeast school. The mother said she was gone about six minutes, and when she came out, someone was stealing her van with her son in it.

Fortunately, the incident ended well, with the child unhurt after the thief crashed the van, and the suspect was taken into custody.…charges of child endangerment need to be pressed to set an example, because no matter how often these types of things occur, other parents continue to leave their kids in similar situations. It takes just a few minutes to get your child out of a vehicle and bring him or her along with you on whatever errand needs running. Sure, it’s more convenient just to leave a child in the car and do the errand, unencumbered. However, child safety should trump inconvenience every time. Better a few extra minutes lost bundling a little one in and out of a vehicle than a lifetime of regret and what-ifs.”

The rationalizations in Skenazy’s defense begin with the title of her post, which is dishonest and in her own words, “dumb.” She is using moral luck as a defense, arguing that the sequence of events as they unfolded were merely unfortunate, and the mother just as easily could have returned to her van and car with nothing amiss. The odds favor nothing bad happening in six minutes; on the other hand, the odds of nothing bad happening are much better if a child isn’t in an unlocked vehicle with the engine running at all. Continue reading

Pop Ethics Quiz! What’s Wrong With This Picture?

speeding bullet

No, you don’t have to spot the mistake, now.  That’s too easy. The single, embarrassing mistake in this ad created for Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun group Everytown For Gun Safety is so obvious I’m pretty sure there are 5th graders who could spot it. A bullet doesn’t come out of the barrel with its casing. There would be no way to propel such a projectile. This ad couldn’t have been created or approved by anyone who ever fired a gun, saw one fired or watched a  Western, war movie or action flick.

The unethical conduct represented by the ad, however, are more numerous, though equally unforgivable:

  • It is incompetent and lazy. No one connected with the ad and its graphics bothered to do the minimum due diligence necessary to find out what a bullet coming out of a muzzle looks like, or how guns work.
  • It is untrue. Actually, anyone is faster than that bullet, which would drop harmlessly to the ground.
  • It negligently misinforms the public, passing along the ignorant misconceptions of the group and its hired artist to people who know as little as they do.

Continue reading

Now THIS Is Irresponsible Broadcast Journalism

"Rarrit!" [Translation: ]

“Rarrit!” [Translation: “Potentially, it’s connected to that-“ ]

This jaw-droppingly stupid conversation actually took place on CBS This Morning, as hosts Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell mused about the extreme cold hitting the U.S., and attempted to connect it to that shared mission of the media, environmentalists, and anti-capitalists, global warming, though when you are using epic cold as your proof, “climate change” sounds a lot less silly:

CHARLIE ROSE: Is it stronger/weaker this year than it has been in the past?

BRYAN WALSH, TIME SENIOR EDITOR: …There is – some theories, actually, that some of the warming, actually, you’re seeing up in the Arctic might be changing the atmospheric circulation in that part of the world – actually causing those winds to weaken, and maybe, makes these cold spells a little more likely than they otherwise be….We had a few strong snowstorms – this despite the fact that we’re still seeing warming happening in the winter and the rest of the year. So, there is some theory that, maybe, this is changing the atmosphere, making it more likely.

NORAH O’DONNELL: …I mean, this is the first time I’ve heard the phrase ‘polar vortex’, and I don’t feel I’m out of it. I mean, were you familiar with it?

WALSH: I was not that familiar with it – no – but now, of course, it’s one of those terms that’s –  that’s everywhere….

ROSE: Is it definitely connected to global warming?

WALSH: Potentially, it’s connected to that-

ROSE: Potentially-

WALSH: These, these – been happening already. What’s new, perhaps, is the fact that the winds may actually [be] weakening. That could be due to warming in the Arctic; changing the atmospheric circulation; therefore, making it more likely for that cold, dense air to escape the vortex – spill down to us.

Now who can argue with that? Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Case Of The Reasonable Gun Nut

A voice of moderation in the gun control debate?

A voice of moderation in the gun control debate?

“Guns and Ammo Magazine,” a stalwart of gun rights advocacy,  fired contributing editor Dick Metcalf after he penned, and the magazine published, an editorial advocating moderate gun control.

In his opinion piece titled “Let’s Talk Limits,” Metcalf wrote in part,

“Way too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement. The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be….All U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly.”

The Horror. You would have thought he had come out for legalized cannibalism. Readers attacked the editor and the magazine on social media, and threatened to cancel subscriptions. “Guns and Ammo” editor Jim Bequette posted an apology to readers on the magazine’s website, saying he should never have run the column:

“In publishing Metcalf’s column, I was untrue to that tradition, and for that I apologize. His views do not represent mine — nor, most important, ‘Guns & Ammo’’s. It is very clear to me that they don’t reflect the views of our readership either. I made a mistake by publishing the column,” he continued. “I thought it would generate a healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights. I miscalculated, pure and simple. I was wrong, and I ask your forgiveness.”

Bequette not only announced that “Guns & Ammo” had fired the author, but also that he was leaving as well.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today is…

Was “Guns and Ammo” unfair to fire Dick Metcalf for writing a moderate and thoughtful opinion piece advocating some gun controls? Continue reading

The Red Caboose On The Penn State Ethics Train Wreck Arrives: The Paterno Family’s Report

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To understand what the Joe Paterno’s family’s report (released on Feb. 10) regarding the late Penn State football coach’s culpability in the Jerry Sandusky child abuse cover-up means, one has to understand what lawyers do, and why it is completely ethical for them to do so, as long as their role isn’t misrepresented by them or their clients.

Lawyers exist to allow non-lawyers to have access to a legal system that is (needlessly) complicated and technical, and to provide their legal training, analytical skills and advocacy abilities to their clients’ legal and legitimate needs and objectives. A lawyer who interposes his or her own opinions, judgments and desires on the client without being asked to do so is, in most cases, behaving unprofessionally and unethically. This is an essential principle to grasp, and yet the vast majority of the public do not grasp it. Nonetheless, without the partisanship a lawyer brings to the attorney-client relationship, regardless of whether a client is rich or poor, altruistic or venal, kind or cruel, we would all be slaves to the laws we supposedly create ourselves, through the machinery of a republic.

An independent investigation of the Penn State administration’s failure to stop serial child molester Jerry Sandusky from harming young children found that iconic football coach Joe Paterno was at the center of the school’s misconduct and the catalyst for it. The investigation was performed by Louis Freeh, a lawyer, a former prosecutor, a former federal judge, and once the head of the F.B.I.  His charge was to find out what happened and who was at fault—not to nail Paterno or anyone else.  It was an independent investigation, with no dictated result. Don Van Natta, a sportswriter whom I supposed should not be expected to understand such distinctions, writes,

“If the Freeh report was a prosecutor’s relentless opening statement that delivered devastating, far-reaching consequences, the Paternos’ rebuttal is a defense attorney’s closing argument brimming with outrage and fury.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The Freeh report was not a work of advocacy in an adversarial setting, but akin to a judge’s objective decision after reviewing the relevant and available facts. The Paterno family report, in contrast, is a work of advocacy, like a brief arguing an appeal to overturn a judicial decision against a lawyer’s client. The charge given to Freeh in his investigation was to find out what went wrong and why. (It began with the assumption that something did go wrong, which was reasonable, since a child predator had somehow managed to roam the Penn State campus for decades, including a ten-year period after he had been seen sexually assaulting a child in a Penn State shower.) Freeh was not told to get Penn State off the hook, or to pin as much as possible on Joe Paterno. The authors of the Paterno family report, however, were charged with the task of rebutting and discrediting Freeh’s report in order to rescue Joe Paterno’s reputation and legacy. It is an advocacy memorandum, like the torture memos and the recent Justice Department justification of the killer drone program. Continue reading