An Amazing Case Study On How Bias Makes Us Stupid

when-facepalmnot-enoughBias makes you stupid. It interferes with our objective judgment, makes us unreasonable and unfair, leads to poor decisions and the loss of the respect of others. Seldom will one see a more striking example than the current post on The Daily Kos, the unhinged far left website, by earnest, progressive, biased and struck-stupid commentator Mark E. Anderson.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is a potential Republican presidential contender who is hated by progressives with an unseemly passion for his successful vanquishing of public employee unions in a traditionally liberal state. He never graduated from college: he left the University of Marquette in his senior year to take advantage of a business opportunity, and never looked back. Good for him.

In a recent interview, addressing his lack of bachelors degree, Walker said,

“I’ve got a master’s degree in taking on the big government special interests, and I think that is worth more than anything else that anybody can point to.”

Continue reading

Dear News Media: Please Stop Spinning…It’s Unethical. Also Embarrassing.

[I’m on the road in Syracuse, and posting to the site has become slow and challenging thanks to losing half the letters on my keyboard, including a, s, and c. The problem has required me to compose by copying words from other sources and pasting them into sentences—you know, like ransom notes cut from newspaper headlines?—or using the online keyboard, which is like writing in alphabet soup. This means that I may have to add some fixes when I get home tonight, and that I will be about five topics behind. Thanks for your patience.]

The coverage of the Wisconsin recall was not a good sign for those of us hoping that the news media might choose to reform its ethics and objectivity standards in time to serve the public properly during the 2012 campaign season. Remember when Fox was the only network openly cheerleading for particular candidates, political figures and parties? MSNBC soon topped it in that regard to a nauseating extent, and now all of the networks, and much of the print media, are following the trend.

It makes no sense in the case of the recall. Why should journalists have a position to push in Wisconsin politics? Why are they taking the sides if public unions? The phenomenon has to be market driven, or, in the alternative, the result of widespread stupidity. Yes, I suspect the latter. Continue reading

Anything Goes: Campaign by Rumor and Slander in the Wisconsin Recall

Wait…who’s “Dan”?

Combining  confirmation bias, whereby any uncomplimentary rumor about one’s enemy is assumed to be true, with “ends justify the means” political warfare philosophy, can banish all fairness and honesty from political campaigns. Spreading slanderous falsehoods about candidates for office is as old as the United States, but the internet and social networking sites, along with the increasingly irresponsible news media, allow the unethical tactic to be more effective, and sinister, than ever.

Now, fearing that the vengeance of the public unions, as orchestrated by the Democratic Party, is going to fall short in tomorrow’s recall election in Wisconsin, the foes of Governor Scott Walker grabbed a manufactured smear about Walker fathering a love child 24 years ago, and have made every effort to make it viral. An anti-Walker website called the Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op [“a group of citizen journalists who began covering the Wisconsin Uprising in February, 2011. We came from different walks of life, different professional backgrounds and different parts of the state to document the dismantling of democratic process and tradition taking place in our state under the right wing onslaught of the Scott Walker regime”] recounted a second-hand story by an anti-Walker  classmate of the governor, who purported to have inside knowledge about his efforts to cover-up his impregnation of her roommate while he was running for class president (yes, this is another school days smear, like the Romney prep school episode. If you can’t beat ’em as adults, beat ’em as kids. That seems to be the current philosophy in both political camps. Phew!). Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: 29 Wisconsin Judges

Yes the gavel's fuzzy, but then so is the judgment of the person on the other end of it.

There is something seriously wrong with the ethical culture of the judiciary in Wisconsin. I suppose this was already obvious, as it is definitely a bad sign when two members of the state Supreme Court accused each other of physical attacks. Nonetheless, the news that 29 of Wisconsin’s sitting judges placed their names on the recall petition for Gov. Scott Walker would seem to settle any remaining doubts.

Is doing this a strict, slam-dunk, violation of the Wisconsin Code of Judicial conduct? No, probably not. It is in a gray area of the Code. Judicial ethics codes prohibit judges from becoming involved in political contests, but a recall petition a judge signs as a private individual (Personally and professionally, I don’t think it is possible for a judge to sign a petition as “a private individual”) don’t fit neatly into the definition of political activity. Other states, such as New York and New Mexico, have allowed judges to sign nominating petitions for candidates on the theory that it is the equivalent of voting, the right to which judges do not give up by ascending the bench.

Still, the judicial codes don’t exactly give a ringing endorsement to this kind of activity, and I would say the better interpretation is that the ethical rules preclude it. The ABA’s Model Judicial Code, for example, says… Continue reading

The Third Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The BEST of Ethics 2011

Why is the The Best in Ethics 2011 only about 33% the size of the “Worst”?

This troubles me. My objective is not to be negative. The problem, I think, is that ethical conduct is still much more common than unethical conduct, and it is usually less controversial to identify: most of the time, good ethics is self-explanatory. All of us learn more from mistakes and misdeeds, our own and those of others, than we do from meeting societal standards. Most of what Ethics Alarms does is to try to identify unethical conduct, what was wrong with it, why it happened, and how we can discourage it.

Which is all well and good, but I still would like to make 2012’s Ethics Alarms  more positive year than this one, if possible. Help me, will you, find more topics involving good ethics, so next year’s Best list can hold its own with the Worst.

Here are the 2011 Ethics Alarms Awards for the Best in Ethics:

Most Important Ethical Act of the Year: Acquitting Casey Anthony. The Florida jury charged with deciding if Casey Anthony murdered her daughter faced the ire of a lynch mob-minded public that wanted the unsympathetic Anthony convicted, based on suspicious conduct and a dubious explanation,  but the evidence just wasn’t there. Thus the courageous twelve upheld the American values of fairness, objectivity, and justice under the law. It is interesting that the most ethical act of the year also sparked some of the most unethical arguments of the year, by too many citizens who benefit from our nation’s ideals without comprehending them. Continue reading

A Damning Role Model For Wisconsin’s Public Union Protests

Fair game for Wisconsin's public unions

The ethical line between Fred Phelps’ anti-gay protesters who disrupt the funerals of  soldiers killed in action, and the self-righteous union protesters opposing Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker’s budget balancing efforts has thinned to the vanishing point.

On Friday, Walker visited the Messmer Catholic Preparatory School in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, to read to third-graders. The third-graders have no political agenda, but 100 protesters felt it was appropriate to disrupt a special day for school children to show their hatred for the governor.
Just as the Westboro Baptist Church feels that its homophobic crusade justifies interfering with military families’ private grief, Wisconsin’s ethically tone-deaf unions feel that innocent student are appropriate collateral damage in their quest to hold on to their privileged status among Wisconsin workers, and elections, laws, deficits and common sense be damned. How especially cynical of the teachers unions, to disrupt the experience of Catholic school students, who, apparently, don’t count. Tell us again, you dedicated teachers, how it’s “all for the children.” Continue reading

Conflict of Interest, Lack of Integrity, Appearance of Impropriety…Other Than That, Gov. Walker, It’s A Great Hire!

"Why, no, his father's financial support played absolutely no part in his landing this plum job...I mean, just LOOK at him! He blew the competition away!"

Politics involves deals and trade-offs, quid pro quos and mutual back-scratching. The trick is to be a politician without undermining the public trust, and using those deals to benefit, not harm, the public interest. That means that certain deals, even relatively typical ones, may be unforgivable under certain circumstances. A prime example: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s hiring of Brian Deschane to oversee environmental and regulatory matters and a large staff at the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. Continue reading

Strange Ethics: Another Indiana Prosecutor Jumps the Rails

"Ward, I'm worried about the Hoosier.."

There’s a wonderful Charles Addams cartoon that shows a bunch of hobos and bums lying around Greek columns under a college reunion “Welcome Alumni!” banner. One of the disheveled alums says, “I used to think it was me, but maybe this school is just no damn good.”

In light of a second Indiana prosecutor losing his job over making outrageous suggestions about how Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker should handle his labor battles, I’m beginning to wonder about Indiana’s training of its various government attorneys.

First, as discussed here, an Assistant Attorney General went on twitter and suggested that Walker use “live ammunition” on union demonstrators.

Now a deputy prosecutor in Johnson County named Carlos Lam has resigned after conduct far worse than that. At least Jeff Cox, the tweeter, was probably joking. Lam sent a serious  email to Walker suggesting that the governor—I’m not making this up—set up a fake attack on himself to attract public sympathy, writing… Continue reading

To Wisconsin Unions, a Depressed Woman’s Suicide Is Just Another PR Weapon

"Oh, no. Poor ..hey, wait a minute! We just might be able to use this!"

“The ends justify the means,” for better or worse, has always been the modus operandi of the American union movement. Back at the beginning of the 20th Century, this often translated into violence, as union leaders used bombs and murder to counter equally vile tactics—or worse—by their industry foes. Union violence is more common today in the threatening than in the actual execution, but the public unions battling Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin have made it increasingly clear that ethics, fairness and truth are not going to stand in the way of their objectives, particularly the objective of winning the battle for public support.

A new low may have been reached with the effort to blame Walker for the suicide of Jeri-Lyn Betts, a 57-year-old teacher suffering from chronic depression, who apparently committed suicide last week.  Continue reading