Tag Archives: confirmation bias

Insomnia-Triggered Observations On The Blasey Ford-Kavanaugh Disaster

I don’t know if it is my usual sleeping in a hotel problem, my typical anxiety before an early morning ethics presentation, or the nauseating reality of what Christine Blasey Ford and the Democrats have inflicted on the political system and cultural norms of basic fairness and decency that has me awake writing a post at 5 am. I have my suspicions, though….

  • Judge Kavanaugh spoke to the Senate Judiciary committee via phone yesterday afternoon about the accusation of a three-decades old sexual assault while he was a prep school student. The committee Democrats refused to participate. I can’t reconcile this with a good faith effort to be fair to the nominee. Can you? It seems that the Democrats, having already made it clear that they will not vote for Kavanaugh for partisan reasons, have no compunction about making it clear that the allegation is just a convenient tool to engineer his defeat. They don’t really care about whether it is true or not.  It is simply a means to an end.

Is there any other conclusion?

  • Professor Rosa Brooks of my alma mater Georgetown Law Center (which has been embarrassing me a lot lately) pretty much sums up my position in a series of tweets. She writes:

I oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination, think senators should vote no based on his judicial record, but am uncomfortable with asserting that his behavior as a teen tells us anything about his “character” now. Yes, even if his behavior as a teen included doing exactly what Ford says he did. This is because….I don’t think teen behavior is predictive of adult behavior, and I am also skeptical of the very idea of “character” as we use the term in American politics. And……. there is a ton of solid research on the general idiocy of teenagers, especially teenaged boys, and the neuroscience that explains their general idiocy….as a lawyer I also think there are sound reasons behind statutes of limitations. After 35 years it is nearly impossible to conduct a full or fair investigation….This does not mean I consider sexual assault “excusable” or “minor.” It just means that I think the bad behavior of minors should be treated differently than the behavior of adults, and that adults should not be shadowed forever by misdeeds as children.

Bingo.

Sadly, the prof’s inner progressive asshole could not remain hidden for the duration of her tweet-storm. I emphatically do NOT concur with her final observation in the last set of tweets, in which she confirms that she is a hyper-partisan bigot who just had a brief, uncharacteristic moment of ethical clarity:

Kavanaugh’s accuser nonetheless deserves to be treated with dignity and consideration; belittling her or her motives should be considered unacceptable. If Kavanaugh responds to her accusations in a way that belittles her or other women who come forward with stories of sexual assault, THAT will definitely be relevant now. And to all who say “well yes but the GOP would draw and quarter any Dem nominee with similar accusations against him,” you’re right, but why would Dems want to do the same things the GOP does? But the GOP would not treat allegations of assault by a black teen as forgivingly,” I agree as well. But again, we shouldn’t conform to the bad behavior of others. Again, this is not because I am “defending” Kavanaugh: I’d vote NO, and for all I know he is a complete jerk and a serial sexual assaulter to boot. All I’m saying is: I am uncomfortable having the current allegation be the basis for opposing, given the above.

Why does Ford deserve to be treated with dignity and consideration? She attempted an anonymous smear job that no professional anywhere would consider fair. When it was clear that this wouldn’t accomplish her goal, she accused a man of politically-toxic misconduct with no more evidence than her own misty recalled memories. Apparently she does  not even recall what year the alleged assault occurred. Professor Brooks is just confirming her #MeToo privileges by embracing the sexist theory that women deserve to be treated differently than men. They don’t. Any man who did something like this to a female nominee would deserve to be condemned. What an air tight gotcha! for the increasingly ethics-free left: an irresponsible, unprovable attack on a mans’ reputation and career that he will be disqualified for treating as it deserves to be treated.

I’d like the law professor to explain why she holds Kavanaugh to this exalted standard of tolerance when she says she assume that Republicans would treat allegations of a black teen’s assault as damning. Now she is virtue-signaling to her colleagues, calling Republicans racists, because of course they are. This tweet would disqualify her, in my view, if President Harris or Warren or Winfrey nominated her for the Supreme Court, or any other post. She’s a bigot, her outrageous claim that he might be a “serial sexual assaulter” is contemptible public discourse.

  • Anyone who uses the fact that she took a lie-detector test  and passed it to support her claim reveals their own ignorance and intellectual dishonesty. The devices don’t work. There isn’t even any debate about it. Sociopaths can beat them, and so can the confused and deluded. There’s a reason why they are inadmissible as evidence in court. Several alleged victims of alien abductions have passed lie detector tests too.

Maybe a space alien assaulted Ford. Maybe Kavanaugh is a space alien. This fiasco is bad enough without lie detector nonsense.

  • Diane Feinstein officially qualifies as an Ethics Alarms Ethics Villain for her role in the episode, joining such disgraceful political characters as Chris Christie, and of course, Hillary Clinton. The San Francisco Chronicle laid much of it out neatly, concluding that her conduct

“..was unfair to Kavanaugh, unfair to his accuser and unfair to Feinstein’s colleagues — Democrats and Republicans alike — on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

  • Does anyone recall that DNC Deputy Chair and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison has been accused domestic abuse by former girlfriend Karen Monahan? That accusation isn’t 35 years old and didn’t involve a teenager. It has also been substantiated by others.The Democrats have done nothing about this, except to “investigate it” and allow their mainstream news media allies to bury the story, at least long enough for the current hypocrisy to escape public notice.

Imagine: I heard a female Democratic senator intone yesterday that if Republicans did not delay the vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, it would be “an insult to every woman” in the country. I regard allowing so dubious and unprovable a #MeToo accusation raised in such a blatantly political context to derail the confirmation of a qualified male candidate a threat to every American male alive. Let’s hand every woman the power to ruin any man, because in any “he said/she said” controversy, only the woman has a “right to be believed.”

Democrats are deliberately encouraging a national, cultural gender war.

More than 200 women who attended the same all-girls school as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser have signed an open letter supporting her allegations of sexual assault when they were both high school students.

The letter says the women — who graduated from the private Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Md., between 1967 and 2018 — believe California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford “and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story.”

“Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton,” the letter says.

“Many of us are survivors ourselves.”

If I thought this was typical of the female ability to reason, I’d advocate banning women from positions of authority. The believe Ford because she’s a woman! They believe Ford because someone assaulted them! They are proudly proclaiming prejudice, misandry and bias. Nobody has any factual basis for believing either Ford or Kavanaugh. Here’s my bias: any position that relies on tactics like this letter is inherently suspect.

 

 

97 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics

Bret Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Update: Christine Blasey Ford, AKA “Anita Hill”

Now we know the name of the author of the late, through-the-mists-of-time character assassination attempt on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Good. Realizing that her anonymous sniper attack wouldn’t be sufficient to accomplish the Democrats’ political objective, she identified herself in an interview with the Washington Post. She is Christine Blasey Ford, like Anita Hill a professor who decided to inject an ancient incident into the solemn process—well, it once was, anyway—of confirming a nominee to the Supreme Court.

The fact that the accusation is no longer anonymous changes some aspects of this latest—is it the most unethical? Probably—twist in the Kavanaugh Ethics Train Wreck saga so far. From the second the desperate Sen. Diane Feinstein—desperate to defeat a qualified conservative judge, desperate to bolster her standing with a California progressive base that finds her too moderate—released Ford’s allegation, it could be tagged “unethical” in five ways:

1 The accusation was anonymous, and thus could not be fairly confronted by the accused. UNFAIR.

2. The accusation was over 30 years old, meaning that all aspects of it, including the recollections of the alleged participants, would be inherently untrustworthy. This is why we have statutes of limitations. UNFAIR, and IRRESPONSIBLE.

3. The accusation was, and still is, unsubstantiated by anyone else. UNFAIR, and IRRESPONSIBLE.

4. The accusation was made against a distinguished public servant and family man with no documented blemishes on his record or character as an adult, stemming from an alleged incident that occurred, if it occurred, while he was a minor. UNFAIR

5. No complaint had been made against Kavanaugh by the accuser at any time in the intervening years, until his nomination by President Trump became a political rallying point for the Left. IRRESPONSIBLE.

Now there are only four. One would be too many. The accusation should not have been made, and should not have been made public. This is a simple Golden Rule equation: what innocent human being would want to be the target of an unprovable accusation like this, at a moment when a significant career advancing opportunity was in the balance? We must begin with the assumption that Kavanaugh is indeed innocent, because there is no substantiated evidence that he is not, and because as an adult, which is what matters now, he is innocent.

Do I believe Kavanaugh, who has unequivocally denied that the incident occurred? I have no reason or justification to believe or disbelieve him, and neither does anyone else. However, I would regard the incident as irrelevant to his confirmation even if he agreed that it happened. Would a report of such an incident when he was applying for bar membership be treated as sufficient proof of bad character to cause his application to be rejected? Absolutely not,  not in any jurisdiction in the nation. Would such conduct as a minor cause any adult with an impeccable record since high school to be rejected for any job or post? Are high school indiscretions that do not involve criminal prosecutions ever deemed relevant to adult employment? Never. (Well, hardly ever.) Continue reading

54 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

There Is Gender And Racial Bias In The Legal Profession, But This Study Doesn’t Prove It…Because Of Bias

Incompetent, agenda-driven research leads to warped debates, hyped conclusion and bad policy. It also undermines credibility of those who cite some legitimate problems. The recent report, which proposes strategies for employers to eliminate the alleged barriers to women and minorities in the legal profession, is such research. It was conducted by the Center for  WorkLifeLaw at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, for the bar association’s Commission on Women in the Profession and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.

At least the New York Times headline, for once, was accurate., at least the online version: “Lawyers Say They Face Persistent Racial and Gender Bias at Work.” Yup, that’s what the survey showed. What it didn’t show is that there really is such discrimination, how much there is, or how it manifests itself. Here’s part of the executive summary:

Prove-It-Again. Women of color, white women, and men of color reported that they have to go “above and beyond” to get the same recognition and respect as their colleagues.

  • Women of color reported PIA bias at a higher level than any other group, 35 percentage points higher than white men.
  • White women and men of color also reported high levels of PIA bias, 25 percentage points higher than white men.
  • Women of color reported that they are held to higher standards than their colleagues at a level 32 percentage points higher than white men.

This demonstrates, at least within the reliability of the survey,  that minorities and women perceive that they are being discriminated against more than white males. That’s a useless result. We have seen and read, for example, how various African American activists and celebrities like Charles M. Blow and Ta’ nahisi Coates teach their sons that police are racists, and that they must fear them. As a result, they interpret all interactions with police through this prism. One doesn’t have to be a research ethicist to conclude that this warps their perception. Similarly, all women currently in the workplace have been bombarded by the media, activists, peers and the culture for most or all of their working lives about how hostile the workplace is to women.

At least four of the seven most common and insidious biases are at work:

1. Herd mentality: The tendency to adopt the opinions and follow the behaviors of the majority to feel safer and to avoid conflict. Also known as mob psychology, peer pressure, and group-think.

Members of groups seeking political power through maximization of perceived victim status are influenced by the needs, mission and perceptions of that group.

2. Confirmation Bias: the tendency to look for or interpret information in a way that confirms pre-formed beliefs.

If you already believe that you are going to be the target of discrimination, you will interpret events to confirm that belief.

3. Self-Serving Bias: when an individual attributes positive outcomes to internal factors and negative outcomes to external factors.

This is the most tragic phenomenon of both a history of bigotry towards certain groups and the laudable efforts to raise awareness of it to eliminate the conduct. It pushes women and minorities to blame external factors for their failures, and in so doing impedes their chances of success. I have previously written about my personal epiphany in this area, when an African American singer who I rejected for a challenging tenor role accused me outright of not casting him because of his color. He could not hit the notes the role required, and yet he was convinced that bias, and not his own deficiencies as a singer, was what cost him the part.

4. Bias Blindness: the tendency not to acknowledge one’s own thought biases.

I don’t doubt that there is considerable gender and racial bias in law firms. Indeed, I am certain of it. This kind of study, however, is not the way to sound the alarm, and smacks of either incompetence or dishonesty.

10 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Research and Scholarship, Workplace

Correction: No, The White House Did NOT Try To Airbrush Away A Key Q & A In The Helsinki Press Conference…

 

Call this not “Fake News,” but “Confirmation Bias Leaping To Conclusions News.”

Many sources prone to assume the worst of anything related to President Trump, including MSNBC and my source here, Jonathan Turley, reported  that the White House had intentionally excised a question asked of Russian President Vladimir Putin during last week’s news conference in Helsinki and his answer.  Maddow gleefully reported in her best “gotcha! you bastards!” tone,

“We can report tonight that the White House video of that exchange has also skillfully cut out that question from the Reuters reporter as if it didn’t happen!”

Ah, but the good, MSNBC-allied, “resistance”- friendly Washington Post also had posted the same transcript, and set about putting Maddow et al, straight, as much as it must have hurt.

“No, the White House didn’t intentionally edit a question to Putin out of a video,” explained the Post’s usually Trump-a-phobic Phillip Bump: Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Sunday Evening Ethics Debriefing, 7/22/18: FISA, “Resistance” Jerks, Translator Ethics And More Problems With CVS

Good evening!

1.  Confirmation bias test? The big news today was that the  U.S. Department of Justice and FBI have released the 412 page FISA application used to gain a Title I surveillance warrant against Carter Page in 2016 while he was working as a low-level unpaid adviser for the Trump campaign. The document is heavily redacted in its more than 400 pages. Carter Page himself—he was never charged or interviewed , which seems rather damning in itself–said today,

“‘You talk about misleading the courts, it’s just so misleading… It’s literally a complete joke.'”

The full pdf is available here.

Once again, it is impossible to tell what is going on by following the news media’s reports. It sure seems, however that once you block out the spinning by the mainstream media, this post regarding Devon Nunes’ much attacked memo on the topic was verified.  Still, I have a low rate of patience for these things, and am not the best interpreter of documents like this, so I am only relying on second hand opinions by others who have plowed through the damn thing. I’ll wait to get some reliable readings.

It seems like the critics of the Mueller investigation and the conduct of Justice and the FBI feel confident that the materials show that indeed the warrants were acquired deceptively, meaning illegally, with the unsubstantiated Steele dossier being the crux of the justification for the warrants, also considering the fact that the Clinton campaign was behind the dossier was never revealed to the judges. [Here’s a recent example of the spin being applied to that argument. The judges were told that the dossier was paid for by a person with political motives, and the claim is that this was enough, that they could figure out that it was a tool of the Clinton campaign. I’ve never understood this argument. Why weren’t the judges informed directly, then? ] Ann Althouse commenter named Yancy Ward wrote, Continue reading

38 Comments

Filed under Bioethics, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

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

123 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Comment Of The Day: “THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—’Cultural Vandalism’!”

Another perspective on the question  of how the personal and professional misconduct of artists should affect our regard for their art comes from Curmie, a drama teacher, director and blogger who has as deep credentials for this topic as anyone.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—“Cultural Vandalism”!…

Back in graduate school, I worked as a teaching assistant to a brilliant professor, Ron Willis, in his Introduction to Theatre class. Seitz’s commentary intersects with two of the concepts Ron highlighted in his course. The first of those is what Ron called para-aesthetics: those elements which affect an audience’s reception of an aesthetic event without being the aesthetic event.

These can be entirely coincidental (it’s pouring rain) or created specifically by the production company (the poster). The company many have had some, but not complete, control over the influence (there’s insufficient parking, in part because of another event in the area). The para-aesthetic influence could apply to the entire audience (the leading actor is a big star, the auditorium is freezing) or to an individual (the leading actor is your best friend, the person next to you thinks that showers are for other people, you’ve had a couple glasses of wine before the show).

The fact that a Bill Cosby’s off-camera life has been considerably short of exemplary matters in a para-aesthetic way. But each individual spectator will respond differently to each impulse. That leading actor—my best friend—is someone else’s ex. Facebook tells me that a year and a day ago I saw a play in London with a young movie star in the title role. His presence mattered to me not a bit, but there were dozens if not hundreds of his fans in the house: people who were there specifically to see him. That play was an adaptation of a script I adore and indeed directed a few years ago. The fact that the play as presented bore little if any resemblance to the original bothered me a lot; those who didn’t know the 19th-century version were far more able to accept the 21st-century revision on its own terms. Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under U.S. Society