Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/18: (Yes, #4 Should Be A Free-Standing Post, But I’m In A Hurry…)

Good Morning!

I love “Onward Christian Soldiers,” of course, but this is my favorite Arthur Sullivan-composed hymn…

1. Reminding me of the basic unethical and cynical nature of state lotteries...A middle-aged African American woman sits outside of our local 7-11 pretty much all day, seven days a week. I’ve written about her before, most recently when she let the door slam in my face despite our family occasionally giving her food, cigarettes and a ten-dollar bill now and then. This morning she bought 40 dollars worth of lottery tickets.

And if she hit the jackpot, she’d be back sitting out front and begging for money in a year or less.

2. My Facebook. theory. You noticed, I’m sure, that Facebook took a 100 billion dollar hit to its paper value in less than 48 hours last week. It all could have been avoided by honesty, transparency, humility, avoidance of virtue-signaling, and fealty to free speech.

  • Users should have been told, in automatic emails and in big, bold letters in disclaimers on the site, since too many of them are too dumb to figure it out, that anything they put on the free platform was fair game to be harvested, sliced, diced, used, sold, analyzed and exploited for any legal purpose, by any group, party, nation or organization, and if potential users didn’t like the terms, nobody was making them post.
  • Facebook should have avoided pretenses of virtue. It provides a useful means of networking and communication as well as cost-free mini-blogs to people unwilling to maintain real ones. It does so to make money, not to make a better world…especially since social media arguably makes a worse one.
  • It should have denied responsibility, in court if necessary, for “fake news” regardless of who created it. Any ad or “sponsored story” should have been so labelled, with Facebook’s position being “read and believe at your own risk. Check “facts” before you spread them around. It’s your responsibility, not ours.”
  • Facebook should have had faith and belief in the freedom of expression and speech, and not attempted to censor “hate speech” or “fake news,” neither of which are subject to precise identification and analysis without the corrupting influence of bias. Indeed, Facebook was obligated to support the First Amendment, as a major cultural force.
  • Facebook should have stayed apolitical. Instead, it joined the “resistance” freakout over Hillary Clinton’s loss, and signaled its virtue by agreeing with absurd and unsupported claims regarding the importance of fake and risible news stories on Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

Mark Zuckerberg is a classic example of a narrow, limited, juvenile savant whose one big idea gave him more power and influence than he was qualified to handle. Maybe losing all of that money will make him appropriately humble, but I doubt it. Such people almost never learn.

3. Is the U.S. State Department intentionally hassling trans women? This story makes a prima facie case that it is, and if that’s really what is going on, it is petty and wrong. It also is a classic Rashomon situation.  Government bureaucracies are inherently inefficient, incompetent, and screwed up beyond all reason or toleration. (Oddly, progressives want more such agencies, with more employees. Go figure.) The story linked appears to show the system trying to make things difficult for a particular group, but the individual targeted only sees how she is being treated, so it appears like obvious discrimination. That, however, is a very subjective assessment.

A member of my family is in jail for a few months, and had been granted work-release privileges so he could continue his job and career. However, those in charge of the program were openly hostile to his efforts to complete the paperwork and arrangements. They kept changing the rules, increasing requirements, threatening him, and delaying the process. When he contacted his lawyer, he was told, “these people can do anything they want to, and get their satisfaction from boring, low-paying jobs by abusing people like you, meaning anyone who would normally be their equals or better, but who is now under their thumbs. You have no choice. Do what they want, or you will suffer. Simple as that.”

My jailed family member is white, male, educated, well-spoken and polite. Eventually, after he grovelled enough, everything was straightened out. “You know,” he said ,”It I were black, there is no way you could have convinced me that I wasn’t the victim of racism.”

It could be the same with the alleged trans discrimination in the passport system. When one of the alleged victims says, “Make no mistake, this was an intentional action by the State Department to withhold recognizing my gender,” she is being sincere and perhaps naive. It may have been an intentional action by low level State Department employees to be assholes because they could be. [Pointer: valkgrrl] Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2017: Oh, Lots Of Stuff…

Let’s clear the runway; flights are being delayed…

1 Please, somebody do me a favor and read Fattymoon’s Medium piece  on why he doesn’t comment here any more. Let me know what it says. I don’t know if it’s another “I hate Jack” web piece, but I have feelings too, and miles to go before I sleep. He should have posted it here, and assuming it is as quirky and thoughtful as many of Fatty’s posts were, I might have made it a Comment of the Day. Posting it elsewhere without a heads up is a Golden Rule breach.

2. Jamelle Bouie’s racialist demagoguery in Slate is an ongoing embarrassment to the once readable web-mag, and in a recent exchange on Twitter, he showed that he’s not too quick on the uptake either.  Tweeting about the planned hit job on the President plotted by Rep. Wilson and an angry, grieving anti-Trump Gold Star wife. Bouie wrote,

“Trump and the White House have an unmistakable pattern of going after prominent black women.”

Quick! Hands: who believes that if the Democratic Representative who accused the President of being  insulting on his condolence call had been a white male, Trump would have behaved any different? Anybody? This is Bouie personified: he will engage in race-baiting no matter how forced, unfair and absurd it is.

I’m not a Ben Shapiro fan, but the conservative pundit knows a hanging curveball in his wheelhouse when  he sees one. He responded,

“Yes, McCain, Hillary, Barack Obama, Cruz, Jeb!, Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Jung Un are all black women”

And he didn’t even mention Bob Corker!

Exposed, owned, embarrassed and squashed, a wiser, smarter progressive would know enough to shut up and allow his idiocy to be gently wiped from cultural memory by the sands of time…like in about ten minutes. But no, Bouie shoots back,

“Nice. A retweet from Honest Conservative Ben “The genocide of Native people’s was Actually Good” Shapiro”

YES! A perfect example of a real, genuine, ad hominem attack, the kind that says, “I have no rebuttal for your devastating argument, so I’m just going to say that you’re personally horrible, so your arguments don’t count.” I’ve gotten so sick of explaining to commenters that their accusations of ad hominem are mistaken and ignorant that I put a warning in the Comments guidelines. “Your argument is idiotic, so I think you are an idiot” is not ad hominem (not nice, but not ad hominem). “You’re an idiot, so your argument must be idiotic” is ad hominem. Now I have a perfect example–from an editor at Slate! (If you think ad hominem  is logical, then you are unqualified to be an editor, even if you aren’t a race-baiting anti-white bigot.)

Not surprisingly, Shapiro knocked this one out of the park too, tweeting,

“Thanks for the ad hominem non sequitur, guy who says every Trump voter is an evil racist”

3. If there was any doubt that John McCain’s recent escalation of his anti-Trump, burr-under-the-saddle, “I’m going to make you rue the day your denigrated my prisoner-of-war heroism” campaign is personal and motivated by revenge, his gratuitous swipe at the President’s deferment from the draft almost 50 years ago should eliminate it.  That is personal, it is a cheap shot, it is intentionally disrespectful, and it is deliberately throwing raw meat to the President’s enemies.

It is also a Golden Rule breach: how would McCain react if Trump referenced the Keating Five scandal just to impugn McCain?

A lame duck who may well be dying, McCain has apparently decided that he can misbehave, settle scores, and undermine his party’s President with impunity. Somebody should tell him that he is dismantling his own reputation and legacy in the process, revealing himself as petty, vindictive, and willing to place his own vendetta over national interests and his duty as a U.S. Senator.

This is one more reason that he should resign.

4. While we are mentioning embarrassment, it appears that the news media is not yet embarrassed by treating as substantive news the self-evident set-up and subsequent escalation of a non-incident into another manufactured anti-Trump race scandal . It should be.  Imagine: yesterday all of the Sunday talking head shows gave far more time to this transparent hit-job than to the revived Russian influence allegations involving the Clintons. ABC and NBC have yet to mention that story at all; CBS, five days after it broke, gave a few seconds to it on “Face the Nation.” The excuses for this from journalists sound an awful lot like “Hey! We buried this story once; she shouldn’t have to report on it now.” FACT: As of this moment, there is more public evidence suggesting that Hillary Clinton was colluding to help the Russians than there is to suggest that President Trump did anything improper in that regard.

Back to the Rep. Frederica Wilson smear-job: The Congressional Black Caucus  called for Chief of Staff John Kelly to apologize for his remarks defending the President.  “We, the women of the Congressional Black Caucus, proudly stand with Congresswoman Wilson and demand that General Kelly apologize to her without delay and take responsibility for his reckless and false statements,” the female lawmakers said in a statement.

The wife of the late La David Johnson, meanwhile, has been making the rounds of talk shows. To recap: a woman who was determined to hurt Trump made sure that a Congressional Black Caucus member who had boycotted the President’s Inauguration was listening in on his condolence call, then collaborated on accusations of disrespect. When Trump denied their characterization–at best an example of likely confirmation bias if there ever was one —he was accused of racism, since both women are black. Then other members of the Caucus expanded the attack to Trump’s Chief of Staff, implying that he is racist as well.

This might have been a bit more convincing if the entire Caucus hadn’t declared their revulsion at Trump before he took office. Who believes that any criticism from this quarter is anything but cynical, political, and unfair? Meanwhile, as this was going on, esteemed CBC member Maxine Waters declared that she was going to “take out” the President, presumably not meaning that they were going on a date.

I note that even many of my Democratic, anti-Trump Facebook friends are rolling their metaphorical eyes at this one. Some of them—many, in fact— are still capable of feeling sympathy when a President is being mistreated.

5. I’ve been getting better at suppressing my head explosions, and just in time: Harvey Weinstein has supposedly completed rehab for his sex addiction already. What was that, less than a week? What an insult to everyone’s intelligence for Weinstein to say he was getting “help” for his “problem.” It couldn’t have been too much of a problem if it could be fixed in few days. The other side of the ethics coin is this: going into rehab has been the routine PR response whenever a Hollywood figure misbehaves. We should thank Harvey for making it clear for all time that this is often, perhaps usually, a cynical sham. Continue reading

Bret Stephens’ Capitulation To New York Times’ Anti-Second Amendment Culture

The New York Times, to nobody’s surprise, is all-in to assist its progressive compatriots in using  every tragedy involving guns to strip away the core individual right to bear arms.  The op-ed pages and website , have, once again, become an oppressive barrage of anti-gun fanaticism and disinformation. Take this morning, for example. There is Timothy Eagan’s claim that the Second Amendment is a “cancer in the Constitution.” “The Second Amendment,” he writes, in the process of declaring the individual right enshrined in the Amendment abd confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court as null and void, “as applied in the last 30 years or so, has become so perverted, twisted and misused that you have to see it now as the second original sin in the founding of this country, after slavery.”

Other aspects of American ideals, traditions, values and cultures that Eagan’s allies on the Left also consider cancers would include, I imagine, the Electoral College, Due Process (see: the Obama Education Department’s now defunct “Dear Colleague” letter), Freedom of Speech (“Hate speech kills!”), Freedom of Religion,  Equal Protection,  the Commerce Clause and, of course, the requirement that impeachment has to be based on a substantive crime. We get it, Tim: the Constitution is an infuriating roadblock to turning the U.S. and its culture into a clone of Sweden.

Then there is David Brooks, once the token conservative among the Times otherwise leftist columnists until his brain was removed while he slept and thoroughly washed. In today’s exhibit of Brooksian pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook, he bemoans “the left’s massive failure to persuade.” (The failure to persuade in this case is based on an escalating failure to be honest, vilifying adversaries, and the fact that the left’s strategy is based on emotion a biased presumption that the right to bear arms is “a cancer on the Constitution.”) Brooks also begins with that assumption, but as usual buries his motives in false objectivity: he writes, for example,

“The research doesn’t overwhelmingly support either side. Gun control proposals don’t seriously impinge freedom; on the other hand, there’s not much evidence that they would prevent many attacks.”

Then he declares the controversy an “epiphenomenon”—I think I know what that means, but I don’t trust writers who use words like that—to end with,

“Today we need another grand synthesis that can move us beyond the current divide, a synthesis that is neither redneck nor hipster but draws from both worlds to create a new social vision. Progress on guns will be possible when the culture war subsides, but not before.”

Brooks began with the presumption that “progress on guns” means acceptance of the anti-gun position on guns. Of course he did.

The day before, the New York Times’s new token conservative columnist had thrilled the anti-gun Left with his latest column, ‘Repeal the Second Amendment.

He deserves credit in one respect: unlike his liberal colleagues who would kill the individual right to gun ownership by incremental cuts, at least Stephens is honest. His arguments, however, are lazy and shallow. Indeed, the entire piece reads like clickbait , or perhaps something written with an editor’s gun—well, crossbow—at his head.

He writes, “From a law-and-order standpoint, more guns means more murder. “States with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides,” noted one exhaustive 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.”  This is a fake and misleading stat arrived at by including suicides among actual murders. Since 1990, the homicide rate has dropped like stone while gun ownership has risen. “More guns mean more murder” is not even a defensible opinion; it certainly isn’t fact. He should have checked with David Brooks on that.

The whole essay is like this, however, He begins by writing, “I have never understood the conservative fetish for the Second Amendment.” It’s not a “fetish,” and it’s not intrinsically conservative. Belief in the Second Amendment springs from a commitment to individual liberty and inherent suspicion and distrust of expanding governmental power that insists that only the State, and not the citizens it is supposed to serve, should possess deadly force.

In a terrific rebuttal in The Federalist, David Harsanyi writes, “As an American-Jew whose ancestors came here escaping both Nazism and communism, I totally ‘get’ the Second Amendment ‘fetishists.’And when I read columns like the one Stephens wrote today, I definitely get it.”  For Stephens’ argument reduces to “Resistance is futile”–Come on, he asks, how are a bunch of pathetic citizen gun owners going to resist the government? Better to just submit: I swear, we can trust these people! I work with them every day! They only want the best for everyone!” Stephens writes like he has Stockholm Syndrome. Continue reading

Hold Websites Responsible For False Advertising And Fake News

I had noticed last week that several supposedly respectable websites I check on had a news link that claimed that Michael Douglas had died. It was so pervasive I googled the news. Nope. Completely false. Total clickbait and a lie. Still, those fake headlines stayed up for days.

On The Daily Beast right now, looking exactly like one of the left-leaning news aggregator’s features, is a story headlined “Rush  in Total Ruins.” Then we have the revelation that Facebook profited from accepting links to false stories, paid for by Russian organizations seeking to undermine public faith and trust in democratic institutions. Facebook also has delivered to my page death hoaxes involving Clint Eastwood, Tiger Woods, Diana Ross, Raquel Welch, and Brad Pitt among others. Many of these are phishing schemes.

Websites that claim to be trustworthy and credible cannot agree, for whatever price, to place lies under their banners. They have a duty of due diligence. If they breach it, they should be liable. Even if the law can’t punish them based on  content, it should be able to punish such sites for aiding and abetting fraud for profit. How hard would it have been to check whether Michael Douglas was alive or not? How much time would it take to have an intern check to see whether Rush Limbaugh’s career is endangered? Newspapers have always excised discretion regarding ads, accepting their responsibility to keep their readers from being scammed. From what I am seeing now, websites accept no similar responsibility.

There have to be consequences. Continue reading

Follow-Up! Defending Prof. Kevin Allred’s Right To Make An Ass Of Himself On Social Media

When we last visited Montclair State University Women’s Studies Professor Kevin Allred, he was about to be sacked at Rutgers for  tweeting

“Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when i buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no…?”

In that case, I agreed that the university had little choice but to remove Allred from the campus, noting that Allred,  as an employee, an adult (theoretically) and an instructor, should have known better than to broadcast his provocative musings in 140 characters or less to the world at large, rather than confining them to class. He should also have  known that campus shootings aren’t a joking matter after the Virginia Tech attack. If he had the sense to write “someone” rather than “I,”  avoided “when” to make it clear this was a hypothetical, the situation would probably have not arisen. Then, I wrote,

  “…Rutgers would only be risking outraged parents demanding to know why a prestigious school thinks it’s responsible to have their students going into debt to pay for courses like the one Allred teaches.”

After he had to leave Rutgers, Montclair State hired him to teach the same course on “the music and career of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter.”

I know, I know.

Now Allred is in hot water again, this time for tweeting,

Trump is a fucking joke. This is all a sham. I wish someone would just shoot him outright.” 

He then retweeted the image of Kathy Griffin holding a model of the  President’s severed head. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein

“That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It’s baseball–a pastime involving a lot of chance. If [Ben] Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I’m on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan.”

—-Theo Epstein, president of the Major League Baseball’s 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs, upon learning that Fortune Magazine had chosen him #1 among “The World’s Greatest Leaders” in a click-bait list released last week.

Thank-you, Theo, for explaining moral luck and the perils of consequentialism to the public. When it came down to the final innings of Game 7 in last year’s World Series, it looked for a while like Cubs manager Joe Maddon was about to blow the chance to win an elusive title after over a century of frustration by keeping his clearly gassed closer on the game. That his risky decision didn’t make Maddon a goat for the ages and Epstein one more name in the long list of Cubs saviors was pure moral luck—the element of chance that often distinguished heroes from villains. winners from losers and geniuses from fools in the public’s mind—and gross consequentialism, judging decisions by their uncontrollable results rather than their objectively judged wisdom and ethics at the time they were made.

If the Cleveland Indians had won that crucial game in extra-inning, no matter how, Epstein might have made Fortune’s list (I doubt it), but he would have been nowhere near the top. Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: Reality Dive

The Pitbull is amused. He's a good sport.

The Pitbull is amused. He’s a good sport.

One should know that this is a really incompetent website. The title can be read multiple ways, one of which is self-indicting (and as it happens, accurate). The motto is just stupid: “The Truth As It Was Meant To be Heard.” Funny, I didn’t hear anything. And what I read wasn’t true.

I kept seeing a featured link to the Reality Dive’s slideshow, “The Most Incredibly Dangerous Dogs” on legitimate sites that should know better. Ethics Tip to these “sponsoring” sites: posting links to low-life outposts like Reality Dive undermines trust in your own site. You’re vouching for this crap.

I will remember.

Finally, I had to click. Sure enough, the title advertised was clickbait, aka a lie. The feature wasn’t even titled “The Most Incredibly Dangerous Dogs.” It was titled “Most Dangerous Dog Breeds” ( Most Dangerous Dog Breeds what?) The text of this mess indicated, if one thought about it, that the most dangerous dog breeds aren’t dangerous at all. Even that doesn’t plumb the sheer incompetence and misrepresentation on display in the slide show.

But first, a comment.  Many people, an amazing number, are stone ignorant about dogs. Never mind that dogs are all around us, work for us, play with amuse us, love us, help us, make us laugh and protect us, there are millions and millions of people who, out of phobias, traumas, negligent upbringing or just inattention, go through life regarding dogs as mysterious, sinister, untrustworthy, hairy noisy drooling things with sharp teeth to be feared and avoided. I feel sorry for them, but as with all ignorant people, I don’t feel too sorry. This condition is fixable, curable, but most of these dog-dummies choose instead to infect others with their malady, which is communicable. Worst of all are The Smugly Ignorant Who Think They Are Not, who actively work to create more people like them. I flagged one of the vile offspring of such Typhoid Marys of dog-hate in an earlier Unethical Website, Dogsbite.org.

Whether features like “Neat Pictures Of Dogs Pulled From The Internet With Meandering And Mostly False Text That Supposedly Explains Why They Are Dangerous But Doesn’t Because The Slideshow Was Created And Authored By a 16-Year-Old Intern From Madam Louisa’s Home For The Bewildered”—okay, that’s what it should have been called—are more or less ethical than the canine-breedists whose propaganda kills thousands of innocent animals every year is a good question. Reality Dives doesn’t care about dogs, one way or the other, just clicks. It assigned this feature to someone whom I seriously question whether he or she could tell a dog from writing desk. Nevertheless, these posts spread ignorance and fear, and set up people to think like the creators of Dogsbite.org.

Now let’s examine the slideshow a bit.

Numero Uno of the “dangerous breeds” is, you guessed it, the American Pit Bull Terrier. The writer  picked the most sinister picture he could find of the breed once called “The Nanny Dog” for its wonderful way with kids (still true, you know):

pitbull-1

 

I found the site he took it from: interestingly, it is a website that celebrates what great dogs these are. This picture on that site also could have been used, but that wouldn’t support the “narrative’: Continue reading