Tag Archives: confirmation bias

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/28/18: Ad-block, Rights-block, Deportation-block, and Stupid-block

Good Morning!

1 Different rights, same unethical tactics. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), whose very existence as a power in the Democratic Party is an indictment of the party’s integrity and trustworthiness, proved it again by proposing a bill that would require background checks for ammunition purchases. “You do not have the right to bear bullets,” she  proclaimed Monday at a news conference at the Pembroke Pines Police Department in Florida.

Progressives, honest observers, and the courts have rightly expressed disgust at various cynical efforts to circumvent other Constitutional rights by similar tactics. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, for example, decided on June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court held in a 5-3 majority that two provisions of a Texas law, one requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and another requiring abortion clinics in the state to have facilities comparable to an ambulatory surgical center,  places a substantial and unconstitutional obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion, because they constituted an undue burden on abortion access.

I wrote at the time,

“Life would be so much simpler if our elected officials and activists employed an adaptation of the Golden Rule, and looked objectively at issues from the other side’s point of view. This is especially true in the realm of rights.  Second Amendment absolutists insist that virtually any laws regulating who can purchase guns… have the ultimate goal of  eliminating that right entirely, which, in many instances is the case, especially if you listen carefully to the rhetoric of the legislators proposing such measures. There is little difference from this and what anti-abortion advocates are attempting to do with laws like House Bill 2 (H. B. 2).”

In fact there was no difference at all, and now Wasserman-Schultz is using the same unethical tactic. (Imagine: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz using an unethical tactic!)  The ethical principle is the same in both matters: a right isn’t a right if legal obstacles make it difficult to exercise that right. Any regulation imposed on a constitutional right must not create “a substantial obstacle” and must be reasonably related to “a legitimate state interest.” Wasserman-Schultz’s statement—I know she’s an idiot, but she is also a member of Congress and is supposed to know something—directly contradicts settled and core Constitutional principles. There is indeed a “right to bear bullets,” because without ammunition, the right to bear arms is an illusion.
Continue reading

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Saturday Afternoon (Because I Was Up At 5 AM Writing About CNN’s Unethical “Town Hall”) Ethics Warm-Up, 2/24/18: Generic Packaging Scams, Goodbye Molly, Polls, And Welcome Student Commenters!

Good Afternoon!

1 The kids are all right! Ethics Alarms has recently been graced with comments by some intrepid and articulate high school students on the guns and schools issue. I salute all of them, as well as the teachers who sent them our way. Some of the students also encountered the tough debate style and sharp rhetoric that our regulars also engage in. One of the students who found himself in a particularly spirited exchange, mostly with me, just sent me a long, self-flagellating and abject apology. My response in part..

Relax. Apology accepted, and I am grateful for it, and admire you for writing it. But you impressed me in many ways. I wish I could meet you.

When I was growing up, there was no internet. I just managed to earn as reputation as a clown, a master of sarcasm and insults, and someone who would never back down from an argument the old-fashioned way—by talking. I made a million gaffes along the way. I made an ass of myself. I hurt people. I also scared some people, but eventually I learned some boundaries. Meanwhile, the skills I acquired being a jerk sometimes have served me well, in college, in law school, in management, in theater, in ethics. (I’m still a jerk sometimes. You have to keep that edge.)

You are welcome to comment on Ethics Alarms any time, my friend. Just remember we’re all human beings, nobody hates anyone, and no mistake is final.

I do hope that any time young readers who identify themselves as such come here to argue, Ethics Alarms commenters will keep in mind that the best result, no matter what they might say while testing the waters here, is to keep them coming back.

2. Packaging designed to make you feel stupid…I’d do a whole essay on this again, but there have been a lot of “yelling at clouds” posts lately. The common practice of generics intentionally imitating the packaging of the original product they derive from is per se unethical. (I’m sure I have written about this before, but cannot find it. I know I criticized the practice of cheap kids animated videos of  stories like “Beauty and the Beast” copying the artwork and color scheme of the corresponding Disney version to fool inattentive purchasers.) My wife just got caught by a CVS scam—the company is a long-time offender—that fooled her into buying for my use an inferior knock-off of Pepcid A-C which I need because the Parkland shooting deception and agitprop is giving me ulcers. It is intentionally packaged with a red fez-shaped cap to look sufficiently like the good stuff to deceive consumers.

See?

Of course, as with the video, it isn’t exactly like the original: the shade of red is different, the cap shape isn’t quite the same, giving them plausible deniability.

There should be some kind of law or regulation to discourage this. I’m going to go into the store and complain to some nice clerk or manager, who will shrug and say she’s sorry, which is to say that, once more,  I will be yelling at clouds . Continue reading

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Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/18: A Train Wreck Update And A Post On “Democratic Norms”

Good Afternoon…

Why is the warm-up so tardy today? You don’t want to know...

1 The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck takes an unexpected turn, which is hard to do for a train...Feminist Katie Roiphe is being widely attacked by the #MeToo mob for her  Harper’s essay ,“The Other Whisper Network: How Twitter Feminism Is Bad for Women.” Her thesis: with women reveling in a new-found power to destroy men’s reputations and careers with mere accusations of sexual misconduct in the workplace or on a date, women’s advances in society are likely to be reversed based on basic suspicion and fear.  The mere news that she was preparing the piece was enough for Roiphe to be called, on social media, Roiphe reported, 

“pro-rape,” “human scum,” a “harridan,” a “monster out of Stephen King’s ‘IT,’?” a “ghoul,” a “bitch,” and a “garbage person”—all because of a rumor that I was planning to name the creator of the so-called Shitty Media Men list. The Twitter feminist Jessica Valenti called this prospect “profoundly shitty” and “incredibly dangerous” without having read a single word of my piece. Other tweets were more direct: “man if katie roiphe actually publishes that article she can consider her career over.” “Katie Roiphe can suck my dick.” With this level of thought policing, who in their right mind would try to say anything even mildly provocative or original?”

The threat of criticism of the online “shitty media men” spreadsheet that gathered anonymous allegations of sexual misbehavior for the purpose of destroying the careers of those on it prompted the  unethical website’s creator, Moira Donegan, to out herself, which she did proudly and to remarkably little criticism from women, who feel pressure to remain silent from peers, Roiphe says. Asks Kyle Smith in the National Review,  “Is a movement that effectively silences even mild dissent by mostly like-minded people something to be proud of?”

One feminist who has been critical of the #MeToo witch hunt tendencies from the start is “Advice Goddess” Amy Alkon, who writes, “Women of past generations worked so hard to be treated as men’s equals. Now every woman has to be looked at like a walking lit fuse.” Of course this is happening: I predicted it too. As Smith writes at another article in the NY Post, many men are no longer willing to be alone with female colleagues: Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quote Of The Month, Terrifying Thoughts Division: Daniel Greenfield”

Conservative journalist David Greenstein made a provocative speech before a Tea Party group in which he posited a “civil war,” defined by him as when a political party rejects a lawful Presidential election and refuses to accept the legitimacy of any government it does not dominate. I admit that offering up such inflammatory analysis for comment is the pedagogical equivalent of tossing a hand grenade in a room, but there is method to my madness, beginning with my conviction, documented here since  November 2016, that much of the Democratic Party is denying the legitimacy of the last Presidential election, and is actively working to find a way to remove President Trump without having to defeat him in the next one.  I believe that this is among the most damaging and dangerous political developments, and ethics outrages, in U.S. history, and one that has been intentionally covered up by an unethical news media with the same agenda.

Greenstein’s speech placed the matter front and center, and I guessed, correctly, that it would get a lot of attention, though the speech has been largely ignored by progressive commentators, even as numerous Democrats, announced that they would boycott the State of the Union message, a traditional yearly symbol of a unified people.  I also assumed that it would pose an interesting challenge for readers here, specifically the challenge of keeping bias out of their  analysis, since, as we all know, bias makes you stupid.

Chris Marschner did an especially good job of this, and here is his excellent Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quote Of The Month, Terrifying Thoughts Division: Daniel Greenfield:

 After listening to his speech I came away with a completely different take on the overall message. To me, he was chastising professional governance. I do not consider it irresponsible demagoguery but an merely the idea that we have gotten away from citizen governance and allowed our governing bodies to be overtaken by a ruling elite that uses its power to obtain more power. In doing so, they have created a civil war that rages within our society which helps them retain power.

Given that the speech was being delivered to a South Carolina Tea Party group his ideas would be readily accepted; and why not? Nationally, Tea Party groups were disparaged by the I.R.S, Anderson Cooper with his vulgar teabagger comments, the Congressional Black Caucus, and left leaning political commentators. Typically, they were characterized as racists, rednecks, rubes, and others that cling to their guns and religion. We know who made the clinger statement. Disparagement and ridicule is the modus operandi of power seekers and those with few abilities or achievements. It works because they know that if someone challenges them the challenger will become the target of ridicule; it becomes psychological extortion.

If asked whether I agree with the statement that the paramount objective of Mueller’s investigation is to remove the President I would have to answer that I don’t know. I do know that current evidence would lead someone to believe that a criminal charge is the objective. I made the point several days ago that seeking an obstruction charge without having the ability to prove an underlying charge of conspiracy is prima facie evidence of not seeking justice but merely to obtain a conviction. This is especially believable given the coordinated efforts to find multiple avenues for removal from office. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, U.S. Society

Two Ethics Heroes : Media Critics Jeff Greenfield And Howard Kurtz

 

Maybe there are some cracks in the wall. God, I hope so.

Two media critics affiliated with major news organizations have recently come right out and stated what we have been talking about here on Ethics Alarms regarding the failure of journalists to observe core ethical standards in their commitment to bring down a President who horrifies them, and who has not taken his abuse lying down, as Presidential norms previously required.

The sharp contrast with Greenfield and Kurtz’s remarkable candor that marks most of their industry was on display today, as The Washington Post held a series of panel discussions and aired live video around the theme “Americans & The Media: Sorting Fact from Fake News.” One  segment featured Post political reporter Dan Balz, one of the Post reporters I would categorize as a straight-shooter most of the time, talking to PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff and Fox Special Report host Bret Baier. Woodruff’s comments were obtuse and depressing, but typical of most journalists and their defenders.

 BALZ: Judy you said something recently  I want to read to people: “You shouldn’t go into journalism if you want to win a popularity contest. If you’re doing your job, there are always going to be people who criticize your reporting. But we’ve never been at a place like we are today where there’s practically an entire industry around criticizing the media and holding the mainstream media up as suspect [ Balz didn’t read, but she also wrote, “and out to destroy an entire political philosophy in this country.” Well I said “most of the time.”]. I think the term ‘fake news’ has done a lot of damage to the media.” Describe the damage.

WOODRUFF: The damage is in the minds and the eyes of people who are consumers all across the country. And you see it in the polls. You see it in this [Knight Foundation] poll, a lessening of trust in the news media. I believe – it sounds corny, but I believe so passionately that a free press, free media, the role that we play, news media in our democracy, is part of what holds democracy together. And if enough Americans start thinking the press is not to be believed, that we are to be shoved to the side, regulated, or treated, controlled in some way, then I think we’ve got real problems. Even if it doesn’t get to that point, and they just don’t believe what we’re doing, then I think our democracy is weakened, and I think that’s what’s happening.

Got that? It’s the critics who are undermining the news media, not the unethical news media conduct that justifies the criticism! This quote is astounding. Journalists like Woodruff don’t see anything wrong with how they are doing their job, or rather not doing it. What harms democracy, Judy, is journalists behaving so unethically that the the public loses trust in them, not the criticism.

Now here are the two Ethics Heroes that do not parrot Woodruff’s defensive spin: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Ethics Update On The “Shithole” Scandal: More Dunces, Hacks, Hypocrites And Liars

When we last left the ‘Shithole’ scandal, now being cited routinely up and down the news media as proof positive that the President is a racist, we knew the following:

1 Unnamed sources “briefed on” or “familiar with” the President’s meeting with select lawmakers regarding an immigration deal told the Washington Post and others that President Trump “grew frustrated with lawmakers” when he learned that part of the proposed deal protected immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, and said,

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

2. Despite the fact that these “sources” had no direct knowledge of what was said in the meeting they did not attend, the New York Times characterized them as having “direct knowledge,” which was impossible. The news media also represented these accounts based on briefings as fact, with headlines such as the Times’ “Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa.”

3. In a series of tweets, the President denied the characterization of what he had said.

4. Senator Dick Durbin, while not expressly quoting the President, told reporters that Trump had said things “in the course of his comments which were hate-filed, vile and racist,” and added, “I use those word advisedly. I understand how powerful they are. But I cannot believe in the history of the White House in that Oval Office that any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.”

5. Nonetheless, the news media, in its subsequent coverage in cable news shows and on the web, treated the claim that Trump had said what the second-hand, anonymous sources had claimed, and used this as a departure point for a general discussion of how racist and vulgar the President was. CNN commentators used the term “shithole” over a hundred times.

6. Websites and blogs with commentators capable of fairness and objectivity, like Ethics AlarmsAlthouse, and Powerline, were forced to accept arguendo (I’m sorry, but I love using that word) the anti-Trump narrative’s assumptions in order to point out that calling countries that are, in fact, “shitholes” is not a racist statement about the people in those countries. This, of course, is how Big Lie propaganda works. You have to accept the lie in order to debunk it.

To sum up, then: The news media reported as fact what were in truth  disputed comments in a private meeting, and the representation of these as truth solidified during the day and evening, and through yesterday.  Now we get headlines like this one, in Entertainment Weekly: “Anderson Cooper chokes up while discussing Trump’s ‘sh–hole’ comment”

Updated Comments and observations: Continue reading

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Public Confidence And Trust (1): Observations On Gallup’s Trust In Occupations Poll

I’ve been following the Gallup organization’s yearly polls on public attitudes toward institutions and occupations for a long time. The results are in for 2017. I’ll discuss the ethics implication of the Gallup occupations poll first; Part 2 will cover the institutions.

The occupations poll tends to fluctuate more year to year, and is most interesting as viewed a competition. Who are most trusted and regarded as most honest? Who are least trusted? Nurses have been ranked #1 in public trust for 16 straight years. I guess this means not too many people watch “Nurse Jackie.” I assume the consistently high rating is because we tend to trust people we have to trust, thus confirmation bias, and because there haven’t been any major nursing scandals or “Angels of Death” in the news. As you will see from the chart, medical doctors are trusted much less. I think that’s the result of an illusion.

Only six professions rate as more than 50% “high” or “very high” for honesty and ethical standards: nurses, military officers, grade school teachers, medical doctors, police officers and pharmacists. The honesty rating of pharmacists dropped five points since 2016, however, and it an occupation that has sometimes finished right behind the nurses. Gallup guesses that the opioid crisis is to blame, and maybe that’s right, though I would think the doctors who prescribe the drugs are more to blame then the druggists who sell them.

Public views of the clergy have fallen like a Chinese space station. Before the Catholic Church child molesting scandal in 2001, the clergy was very trusted at the high 60% level. Now it is all the way down to 42%, though the total of high trust and average trust is still 85%. I think the film “Spotlight” hurt, as it should have.

Occupations that I would regard as having positive public trust include those whose high trust+average scores are higher than their low trust+average scores. That group, in addition to the occupations already named above, includes day care providers, judges, auto mechanics, nursing home operators and bankers. I think in all of these cases, the public has no real idea about how trustworthy these occupations really are. We just hope they are trustworthy, so again, we have a result that is polluted by wishful thinking. These people are entrusted with the welfare of our children, our cars, our parents and our money, plus the justice system. They better be trustworthy. Ignorance is bliss.

I confess amazement that Wells Fargo scandal didn’t result in lowered trust for bankers. Continue reading

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