Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/31/19: Confirmation, Computers, Clinton, Cruz, And Comments

Good morning.

Trying to get used to my new computer, Microsoft 10, files I can’t find and many other things. Everything is going sloooooowly. Be merciful.

1. More on the Martin Luther King revelations. Yesterday I wrote about King biographer David Garrow’s article revealing the some disturbing and previously unrevealed results of the  FBI’s (illegal) surveillance of Martin Luther King. Predictably, Garrow is under fire for daring to sully an icon’s reputation, and because the source of the material is Hoover’s attempt to undermine King, that is the mode of attack. Garrow won a Pulitzer Prize for “Bearing the Cross,” his 1986 biography of King, and has said in the past  that FBI files should be treated with skepticism. However, he is obviously so disturbed at the new revelations that were inadvertently released that he is performing what he sees as his duty as a historian. He told the Washington Post that the summaries made by FBI agents who were spying on King are accurate, noting that different types of records warrant different levels of trust in their accuracy. The files claiming King was communist, he said,  “are coming literally third- or fourth-hand from a human informant,”so their accuracy is “highly dubious…But with the electronic surveillance records, those are very highly reliable, other than when the FBI can’t understand who’s talking.”

Confirmation bias is the key here. Garrow has none that I can see: his reputation is at risk if he is wrong, and he was an admirer of King, though not blind to his previously known flaws, like his epic infidelity. So far, the reflex deniers of Garrow’s conclusion all appear to be “keepers of the flame,” or at least invested in keeping King’s reputation intact.

It is encouraging to see the Post, which apparently refused to publish Garrow’s article,  covering the story. Most media sources are not, and that is signature significance. Many of the same sources have assumed that Donald Trump engaged in wilful sexual assault based solely on his recorded hyperbolic boasts to Billy Bush. The integrity of journalism in the U.S. could not be at lower tide.

In my case, I know enough about history and the important figures who stroll, dash and charge through it not to be surprised when any of them are revealed to have engaged in objectively horrible conduct at various points in their lives. Given King’s documented sexual appetites and epic infidelities, the likelihood that he was a sexual predator is strong. Again, my position is that King’s personal, even criminal conduct shouldn’t affect the assessment of or national gratitude for his public achievements at all. This isn’t the “personal conduct” dodge that Bill Clinton’s enablers used: his conduct with Lewinski and others was related to his job, his position, and in fact occurred in his office. That’s professional, workplace conduct, not personal.

I assume this will be another story inconvenient to the news media’s favorite causes,  that journalists and editors will attempt to bury, muddy, and minimize. Yes, and anyone who attempts to raise it, analyze it and verify it will be tarred as a racist. Perhaps I am naive and optimistic, but I don’t think that will work here. Just as eventually we had to face the truth about Thomas Jefferson and Bill Cosby, even those who want to deify King will have to deal with his private character, and decide whether they really want his statues and memorials, street signs and holiday, to come down.

Of course, there will be some good people on both sides of the argument. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/15/2019: Fevered Ethics Musings, and More” [Item #2]

Cultural literacy pop quiz: who’s the quote from?

This Comment of the Day by Benjamin, a relatively recent recruit to the discussions here, typifies the thoughtfulness and seriousness that distinguishes the commentariat at Ethics Alarms. Ann Althouse, a blogger (whose work  Facebook doesn’t block) with a much larger readership whose topics often mirror mine, just announced that she is considering changing “the commenting experience”:

I’ll regard the comments submitted to moderation as private messages to me, and I’ll only publish comments I think readers would generally enjoy reading — comments that are interesting, original, well-written, and responsive to the post.

I consider most of the comments here interesting, original, well-written, and responsive to the posts. The kind of comment that Benjamin registered is rare on Althouse, or any blog, really, though not rare here. (The exceptions would be PopeHat, whose progenitor has, at least for now, apparently abandoned for greener pastures, and the original Volokh Conspiracy, before it moved to the Washington Post, and then Reason). Why is that? One reason is the subject matter; another is that commenters who can’t express themselves, issue uninformed opinions or who just aren’t too bright don’t do well on Ethics Alarms. Another reason is that, as I have probably complained about too much, the mass exodus here of the Trump Deranged and knee-jerk progressives has eliminated most of the “You’re an idiot!” “No, you’re an idiot!” exchanges that pollute most blogs, as well as comment sections everywhere.

Here is Benjamin’s Comment of the Day on Item #2 in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/15/2019: Fevered Ethics Musings, and More:

My efforts at suppressing the sin of schadenfreude are becoming futile. The things festering behind fiercely-reinforced masks are starting to spill putrid materials out of the eye and nose holes nearly everywhere and all at once. I believe I’m addicted to two “drugs”: watching good men hoisting the black flag and destroying evil with relish in the name of a good end, e.g. Liam Neeson’s Taken is dangerous for me to watch – I start getting ideas – so I’ve placed an embargo for myself on such plotlines; and watching evil destroy itself. I don’t think I’ll need to embargo the latter, though. There’s nothing more instructive of the fact that difficult-but-correct choices ought to always be chosen over immediately convenient wrong ones than watching the effects of a century or so of those wrong choices. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/27/2018: Petards, Conflicts, And Bullshit Edition

Good Morning!

1. Oh no! Hoisted by my own petard! I’m pretty certain that Clinton fixer Lanny Davis has an unwaivable conflict of interest in his representation of Trump fixer Michael Cohen. The legal ethics establishment is soft-peddling the issue because most legal ethicists apparently hate President Trump more than they like ethical lawyering, but I’ve been wrestling over whether to file a disciplinary complaint. The problem is that any complaint that has even a tinge of political motivation won’t be touched by the Bar (if prior performance is any indicator), so a complaint by me would be the proverbial lonely tree falling in the forest. The remedy would be to issue a publicity release about the complaint, but I’ve criticized that tactic as unethical right here, on more than one occasion. Rats.

It might be just as well. After the mere hint that I was defending Donald Trump (I was not) on NPR appears to have gotten me blackballed there after many years as an ethics commentator, I probably should not criticize the lawyer for the most popular sleaze in D.C. these days.

2. Neil Simon Ethics. In an alternate universe, my still operating professional theater company, dedicated to keeping unfairly buried, forgotten or unfashionable American theater works of the past in front of audiences who deserve a chance to see them, is looking at a lot of Neil Simon productions. The works of the —by far—most successful writer of comedies in Broadway history are already sneered at as sexist and “outdated,” and I can vouch for the fact that all it takes is one militant female board member with a checkbook and a chip on her shoulder to kill a production. Remember S.N Behrman? Seen any Philip Barry plays lately? How about Kaufman and Hart? Simon just died, and he’s already heading to obscurity along with those guys, and most of their plays are still funny too.

3. Here’s another topic it’s dangerous to get intoFrom CBS:

A pregnant Washington state woman said she was fired via text message from a sub shop where worked, with a store manager telling her “it’s not a good time to have somebody who is leaving for maternity leave in several months anyway.” Kameisha Denton told CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV that she had told the manager she was pregnant and due in December, asking for maternity leave.

Denton said she realized that she hadn’t been assigned shifts at Jersey Mike’s sub shop in Marysville, Washington, so she sent a text to her manager inquiring about the hours. The response she says she received was shocking.

When Denton asked for her “updated schedule” she received something a bit different. The store manager named only as “Marcos” in Denton’s phone responded, “I am sorry to inform you but it’s not going to work out with Jersey Mikes. It’s not a good time to have somebody who is leaving for maternity leave in several months anyways. You also failed to tell me this during your interview.”

Denton posted the exchange on Facebook in a post that had garnered over 1,000 shares in just two days.  

Denton told KIRO-TV,  “I was just like in shock, it took me a minute to face reality — I was like this is really happening.”

Continue reading

More On “Media Bias Report 3.1”

It is amazing how many desperate liberals  circulate or defend  the absurd, misleading and incompetent chart purporting to measure the bias of various news sources as if the thing had any integrity at all. First of all, they could not (I hope) have read the creator’s nonsensical criteria for her assessments. Second, it should be obvious that no single individual could possibly examine and compare over 40 news sources with anything approaching thoroughness and accuracy. How would this be possible, even as a full-time endeavor, which it most certainly was not in this case? A research group like Pew might be able to pull such a study off with a large budget, lots of time, and a substantial staff, and even then I’m very dubious.

The chart is a classic example of making fake research—garbage in, garbage out— look impressive through packaging. This is, of course, unethical.

For the record, here are some of the factors someone who was seriously interested in measuring bias objectively (and not primarily determined to show that mainstream media bias is a right-wing myth): Continue reading

Exhibit A. On Why The News Media Won’t Address Its Unethical Bias

Just look at that chart, sent to me by a frequent commenter here. I wish I could make it larger on the site, but a clearer version is here.

The woman [going by only the name “Vanessa,” as far as I could discover] who created this appears to be serious: if this is satire or trolling, she fooled me. The thing is so obviously itself a product of liberal bias that it is amazing that it would be presented as otherwise. There is Fox News way over in the hyper-partisan conservative field, which is mostly fair, but lo and behold, there sit outrageously hyper-partisan CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post mostly in the “neutral” field while ABC, CBS, NBC,  NPR and TIME [KABOOM!] are sitting entirely in “neutral.”

How is it possible that someone could come to such an obviously incorrect conclusion? Several ways, actually. One is that she is far enough left that the biased and slanted hackery of sources like CNN seem moderate and fair to her. Another is that she doesn’t have a clue what bias is. A third is that she’s an idiot, and a fourth is that she’s doing propaganda for the propagandists. She has a long section on her methodology here: please read it if you are curious, and report back. I’m not going to waste my time. Any methodology that leads to the conclusion that NPR is paragon of unbiased journalism is crap by definition. I don’t need to read it to figure that out. Vanessa says we should trust her analysis because she in an English major and a patent lawyer.

Oh.

This visual representation of denial does have value: it demonstrates that there are no unbiased news sources, and that journalism is not merely untrustworthy, but actively impeding the communication of essential knowledge to the public, so they can make the informed choices crucial to a functioning democracy.

Of course, I knew that already.

(Somebody tell Vanessa.)

 

Afternoon Ethics Warm-up, 6/6/18: Special “Don’t Sue Me, These Are Just Opinions” Edition

Good afternoon.

1. For the record...Ethics Alarms passed 9 million views this week. That’s not a lot in a bit less than 9 years by the mega-blog standards, but their aren’t many ethics blogs that do better, and maybe none. Admittedly, this is a little like being the most popular fan site for Clint Howard…

2. Now this IS a frivolous lawsuit...tomorrow I finally go to Boston to argue my motion to dismiss the vexatious defamation lawsuit against me by an Ethics Alarms commenter whose feelings I hurt in the process of throwing him off the site. If a lawyer brought this suit, I would have a rare claim against him for breaching Rule 3.1, prohibiting frivolous suits. No lawyer, however, would bring such a suit. There has to be a good faith belief that you can prevail, or change the law, but there is literally no support in the law of defamation for calling insults (yup, I insulted him), opinions, and conclusions based on fully-revealed information and data libel. Non-lawyers, however, don’t have to obey legal ethics rules, and, as in this case, don’t know what they are anywhere. Maybe after I’m through with all of this, I’ll post the whole complaint. Among its claims is that I graduated from Hampshire College, and that the Massachusetts court has jurisdiction because I’m a fan of the Boston Red Sox. I also, it claims, defamed the plaintiff by erroneously referring to him as an academic. To deal with this spiteful action, I have already expended several thousand dollars. Yes, it goes with the territory. I know.

3. Imagine, impugning the professionalism and impunity of the FBI! A drunk and irresponsible FBI agent  shot a man at a Denver bar over the weekend when his gun flew out of his pocket, hit the floor and discharged as he was executing an acrobatic maneuver on the dance floor. This, you will not be surprised to learn, is not compliant with FBI policy. Agents are considered on duty at all times. They can carry their weapon at all times too, but cannot endanger the public while doing so. They are also not permitted to act like clowns in public, or be drunk as proverbial skunks. The agent is Chase Bishop, 29, who works out of Washington D.C. No word yet if he is part of the Mueller investigation.

Conservative wag Glenn Reynold would headline this story, “Top. Men.” Maybe he already has. And if you don’t get the reference, your cultural literacy needs a tune-up. Continue reading

Saturday Afternoon Ethics Stimulus, 5/26/2018: The Sad Part Is That None Of This Is A Surprise

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

1.  From the “Bias makes you UNBELIEVABLY stupid, especially, apparently, if you’re a journalist” files: Ann Althouse posted this screen shot of memeorandum, an excellent  news aggregator page:

I wrote earlier about how many of the anti-Trump mob, in the news media and out of it, appeared to be actively rooting for the President’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea to fail, and how his Negotiation 101 move of symbolically walking away from the planned summit would probably be misunderstood and misinterpreted because of the current toxic combination of bias and ignorance, but this is ridiculous. Writes Althouse—who despite multiple polite requests refuses to put Ethics Alarms in her links despite its covering a lot of parallel territory, despite the many frivolous or largely inactive blogs she does link to, and despite the multiple plugs and links I give her, but hey, I’m not bitterContinue reading