Short Week Ethics Short Takes, 9/10/2021

What are the odds that Randy Newman’s satirical song would be attacked today as offensive and accused of making short people feel unsafe? I think pretty high in favor, don’t you?

I was thinking about this after watching “Movie 43” last night, an astounding 2013 project in which a huge, all-star cast was recruited into doing a series of sophomoric, gutter humor skits that had bad taste galore but not much humor or wit beyond “Oh my God, I can’t believe they did that!” Still, while the movie got horrible reviews (although the critics calling it “The Worst Movie Ever Made” beclowned themselves: I can name 20 worse ones off the top of my head) and bombed, I am pretty sure that it would spark boycotts and “cancellations” today for being so spectacularly politically incorrect. Watching it, I was nostalgic for the time when artists could cross lines and not have a virtual price placed on their heads. In just seven years, we have come to a place where Americans are terrified of enraging the woke. I think watching Movie 43 is good tonic for that, and also good practice for those who want to purge their inner weenie.

1. One more bit of proof that we should not trust “experts,” scientists, or academics. Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker has written several best-selling books, such as “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” (2011) and “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress” (2018) and is regarded as a public intellectual. Yet when the New York Times asked him, Do you see any irrational beliefs as useful?,” Pinker answered,

“Yeah. For example, every time the media blames a fire or a storm on climate change, it’s a dubious argument in the sense that those are events that belong to weather, not climate. You can never attribute a particular event to a trend. It’s also the case, given that there is an availability bias in human cognition, that people tend to be more influenced by images and narratives and anecdotes than trends. If a particular anecdote or event can in the public mind be equated with a trend, and the impression that people get from the flamboyant image gets them to appreciate what in reality is a trend, then I have no problem with using it that way.”

Yes, this respected intellectual believes that deceiving the public is justified if it leads them to support the “right” policies and beliefs. He, and those like him, are the real threats to democracy.

My Harvard diploma is already facing the wall; staring today, I’m going to spit at it when I pass by…

Coincidentally, today I was asked to write something for my class’s reunion book. What should I write?

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A “Bias Makes Professionals Stupid And Unprofessional” Update

Trump photo defaced

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck and the resulting mass effort to bring down Donald Trump was the corruption of virtually all of our society’s professions, and the vast majority of their members. Educators, psychiatrists, teachers, judges— journalists, of course, though they were already pretty far gone; broadcasters, of course. Entertainment professionals and performers, heaven knows (That’s the Dixie Chicks and their clever and subtle political commentary above.) In addition to theater professionals, two more of my professions have disgraced themselves: lawyers and ethicists. The listserv of a legal ethics organization I belong to was virtually cackling with joy over Rudy Giuliani’s partisan and dangerous interim suspension in New York, while the same group has been notably unenthusiastic about criticizing out-of court hyperbole by anti-Trump lawyers like the recently sentenced Michael Avenatti. (I may have missed some more balanced attention because I dropped out of the group for about 18 months in disgust over its bias.) Here is a tweet by a conservative attorney that was just offered to the group for comment on whether it raised issues of professional misconduct:

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Ethics Dunce, Rogue And Fool To Be Held Up As An Example Forever More: Dr. Anthony Fauci

Fauci

From the New York Times:

“In the pandemic’s early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did. About a month ago, he began saying “70, 75 percent” in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said “75, 80, 85 percent” and “75 to 80-plus percent….In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks. Hard as it may be to hear, he said, he believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity to bring the virus to a halt — almost as much as is needed to stop a measles outbreak.

No, what is hard to hear, though at this point hardly a shock to anyone with a functioning brain, is that Fauci now admits he’s been lying….you know, “for our own good.”

Don’t heed the spin, the double-talk and the euphemisms: when someone tells you something other than what he or she knows to be true or believes to be true, that individual is deliberately attempting to deceive you by communicating what they believe to be untrue as true. That’s lying. No debate. No defense. That’s what it is, by definition. “I did it for your own good” is a rationalization.

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These Are The “Experts” Your Present And Future Masters Rely Upon

monster-replica

If I weren’t so sick of this topic, it would deserve longer post…a rant even.

Reason reports that many epidemiologists believe we should all wear masks and socially distance forever:

“I expect that wearing a mask will become part of my daily life, moving forward, even after a vaccine is deployed,” Amy Hobbs, a research associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says.Marilyn Tseng, an assistant professor at California Polytechnic State University, said life would never revert to the way it was, though the preventative measures currently practiced—masks and social distancing—will feel “normal” in time. Similarly, Vasily Vlassov, a professor at HSE University in Moscow, said life was perfectly normal now because this is the new normal….”

Of course they say that. Are you surprised?

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It’s Time To Play The Exciting Game Show, “Pick Your Autopsy!”

From the New York Times today:

George Floyd died not just because of the knee lodged at his neck by a Minneapolis Police officer, but also because of the other officers who helped hold him down, a private autopsy found.

Dr. Allecia M. Wilson of the University of Michigan and Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, were hired by Mr. Floyd’s family to help determine his cause of death. “Not only was the knee on George’s neck a cause of his death, but so was the weight of the other two police officers on his back, who not only prevented blood flow into his brain but also air flow into his lungs,” said Antonio Romanucci, a lawyer for the family.

Well I guess that settles it, then! And that Hennepin County medical examiner conclusion that the county autopsy “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation,” and that ” that other factors were involved in Mr. Floyd’s death, including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease”? Obviously rigged, wrong and based on racism. Or a cover-up. Or something.

Autopsies are not supposed to be advocacy proceedings. For the Floyd family to bring out their own, bought and paid-for autopsy to contradict the official one means that the case is being litigated in the news media and outside of the courtroom, and that is not the “justice” that Floyd’s protesters supposedly seek. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The Pandemic Creates A Classic And Difficult Ethics Conflict, But The Resolution Is Clear, Part I: Stipulations”

The second Comment of the Day to come out of  Part 1 of the pandemic analysis ethics conflict analysis, like the first, does a lot of the work I would otherwise have to do to complete Part 2. A couple more like these, and the issue might be thoroughly covered without any input from me at all!

Here is Michael R’s Comment of the Day on the post,  “The Pandemic Creates A Classic And Difficult Ethics Conflict, But The Resolution Is Clear, Part I: Stipulations”:

The global warming cult has conditioned leaders and the media to trust models over data. If the data doesn’t match the model, it is the DATA that must change, which is why they keep adjusting the temperature measurements more and more to match the model. As with global warming, the model does not match reality and we are being told to trust the model, not the data.

Just to put things in perspective:

—Roughly 2.8 million Americans die each year. Around march, that is roughly 8000 people/day.

—If 5% of the population has asymptomatic coronavirus, that means that 400 dead people with test positive for coronavirus each day, even though it did not contribute to their deaths. Under current practice, that means 400 coronavirus deaths that really weren’t coronavirus deaths (or 12,000/month).

—It is hard to tell, but the number of deaths/month does not seem to be rising over previous years. It seems that most ‘coronavirus deaths’ are due to reclassifying cause of death, not actual effects of the virus. You can view the California doctor’s censored interview about that somewhere, if you can find it anymore.

—The number of actual extra deaths from coronavirus appears to be within the yearly standard deviation of deaths. Meaning: Deaths from coronavirus are not statistically significant yet.

—The fatality rate appears to be less than 0.1%. The flu is about 0.1% and the flu without the flu vaccine is about 0.3%, so this appears to be not as dangerous as the flu. More people are getting it, however, because it is new and people don’t have an natural immunity to it yet. This is why everyone needs to get it.

—Roughly 500,000 people die each year from medical mistakes.

—Places that had more restrictive lockdowns did not suffer from worse outcomes. They seemed to have suffered less.

Verdict: It seems that our ‘experts’ are morons. Let’s look at some of the policies from those ‘best people’. Continue reading

Perspective From Michael Crichton On Experts And Predicting Crises

Michael Chrichton was a unique and relentlessly positive influence on our culture, popular and otherwise, before his death in 2008 at the age of 66.  Trained as a doctor and scientist, he applied his knowledge, his brilliance, and more importantly, his remarkable powers of lateral thinking and unbiased analysis, to myriad  fields, always aimed at a form of public education that was fueled by entertainment.  He taught, he wrote best-selling novels, he was a futurist, he directed movies, he created TV shows.   Mostly he thought, and through the fruits of his thought, made ordinary people smarter, at least those smart enough to pay attention. Yes, he thought a lot about ethics. You can learn more about his career and interests at his website, here.

Michael Crichton was especially interested in threats and crises, how they happen and our reactions to them. His first hit novel, “The Andromeda Strain” was about a deadly virus. He would have been very helpful right now. Though he was himself an expert on many topics, he was wary of the abuse of expertise; though he was a visionary, he was was a vocal skeptic of predictions and assumptions. Crichton, I think, would have found the current weaponizing of hindsight bias to find a new way to demonize President Trump as revolting and dishonest as I do.

In this 2002 lecture, Crichton discussed the media’s obsession with speculation, and society’s unwarranted confidence that the future is predictable, especially when experts are doing the predicting. Some selections: Continue reading

Pssst! Climate Change Activists? This Is Why Nobody Trusts You…

Here is Houdini showing the Scientific American panel how spiritualists and mediums made bells ring. See his foot?

I once subscribed to Scientific American. We had to read it in high school, and I often used articles from the magazine in research projects. I also was a fan of its history, which intersected with my long-time love of magic and magic history. It was Scientific American, back in the 1920s, that created the special cash prize for anyone who could prove they had supernatural powers, or that paranormal phenomena was real. After a while psychics and other miracle workers stopped applying for the prize, because SA’s panel of experts always exposed them as frauds. The star member of that panel was Harry Houdini, in his post-performing second career as the enemy of charlatans and frauds

Thus it pains me to see the once great, dumbed-down vestige of Scientific American publish an article with this unforgivable headline, in front of content that is little better:

Climate Change May Have Helped Spark Iran’s Protests

And space aliens may have built the pyramids.

Actually, the article still has educational value, though no teacher is likely to use it properly. It is a wonderful example of poor critical thinking, bad science, the result of mixing science with politics, and how bias makes you stupid.  The author, Scott Waldman, doesn’t even try to hide the article’s weak logic and lame premise, beginning it with this:

The impacts of climate change are among the environmental challenges facing Iran that helped spark protests in dozens of cities across the Islamic republic.At least 20 people have died in the uprising, driven by the sudden collapse of financial institutions, low wages and mistrust of national leaders. Rising temperatures are seen by some experts as an underlying condition for the economic hardships that led to the unrest. A severe drought, mismanaged water resources and dust storms diminished Iran’s economy in recent years, according to experts who study the region. While the protests are largely driven by resistance to the country’s hardline conservative government, such environmental factors might have contributed to the largest protests inside Iran in years.

That tells any objective reader all he needs to know: junk ahead.  The old “some experts” ploy, eh? You can find “some experts” who will say anything, especially on TV. We just went through weeks of unethical speculation on whether the President was suffering from dementia based on “some expert,” a Yale professor of psychiatry who breached the American Psychiatric Association (APA) ethics protocols and was revealed as not to be licensed to practice anymore.You know. An expert.

Waldman himself isn’t an expert on climatology or even science: he’s a reporter, and his degree was in journalism. Funny, I’m so old, I remember when the articles in Scientific American were written by scientists. How quaint. Continue reading

Easy Ethics Quiz: Bill Nye The Science Guy’s Ambush Slapdown

On his own Reddit forum where readers are allowed to “Ask Me Anything,” Bill Nye the Science Guy, who has recently been making a pretty penny shilling for the climate change policy lobby, was made the target of this:

Hi Bill,

I have a great way you can start. Stop pretending you’re a scientist.

In science, we begin with facts. The facts show you have no formal science education beyond a Bachelors in mechanical engineering from Cornell. That’s it. Not even a Masters degree, let alone a Doctorate. You literally have no formal science education beyond an undergraduate degree. The facts also show that the whole “Science Guy” persona emerged out of a stand-up comedy routine you used to perform on local public-access TV back in the 80’s:

Good science requires valid data, so, here you go:

You’ve spent years parading around in a lab coat, even after your Disney series ended.. parading around in a way which makes most people, particularly children, think that you’re qualified to speak on matters you have no formal experience, education, or training on. For all intents and purposes, you’re a talented actor-comedian with an opinion who inserts himself into public dialogue…and that’s about it.

Good science also requires peer-review, so, here you go: Continue reading

Bravo! Professor Turley And Sir Thomas More On The Disgraceful, Dangerous, And Deranged Professionals Of “The Resistance”

Law professor/blogger Jonathan Turley’s latest essay, “Roper’s Resolve: Critics Seek Dangerous Extensions Of Treason and Other Crimes To Prosecute The Trumps” had me at “Roper,” Turley’s direct reference to the most often posted movie clip on Ethics Alarms,* the scene above from “A Man For All Seasons.”  Turley applies the scene correctly, too, to the depressingly large mob of previously respectable and responsible lawyers, elected officials, scholars, academics, journalists and pundits who have betrayed their professions’ values and ethics to falsely tell a gullible public that the President and members of his family, campaign and administration have committed treason, espionage, conspiracy, election fraud and obstruction of justice when such accusations are not supported by law or precedent, evidence, facts or common sense. These accusations are, rather, the product of unreasoning fury and bias sparked by Donald Trump’s election as President.

Some of the individuals Turley names, like Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary’s running mate, may be just spewing political bile out of a lack of integrity. Kaine is a former prosecutor and should know better. Some, like Cornell Law School Vice Dean Jens David Ohlin, may be examples of bias making smart people stupid. MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler, who claimed Trump was “conspiring with the U.S.’ sworn enemy to take over and subvert our democracy,” and who declared it is now “clear” that “what Donald Trump Jr. is alleged to have done is a federal crime” are, sadly, typical of how the unethical and dishonest the news media now behaves much of the time. As for my fellow legal ethicist Richard Painter, also fingered by Turley, I’m convinced from his increasingly extreme and hysterical anti-Trump analyses  that he has been driven to the edge of madness by Trump’s election. He’s not the only one.

Turley also points to former Watergate assistant special prosecutor Nick Akerman, who is just plain wrong. One cannot claim, as Ackerman does, that there is “a clear case that Donald Trump Jr. has met all the elements” of a violation of the election laws when, as Turley points out, no court has ever reached such a conclusion. That is prima facie evidence that there is no clear case.

Echoing More, Turley writes, Continue reading