Sick-Bed Ethics Warm-Up, 11/14/18: Ethics Among the Sneezes [UPDATED]

Good whatever it is….

1. Bottom line” Don’t trust Facebook. From the Times: “Facebook failed to closely monitor device makers after granting them access to the personal data of hundreds of millions of people, according to a previously unreported disclosure to Congress last month.” Surprised? As with Google promising moths ago that it was no longer reading our mail, then admitting months later that it had resumed the practice, the big tech companies have proven repeatedly that that we cannot believe what they say, or their motives, or their pledges of good will and public service. More from the Times story:

Facebook’s loose oversight of the partnerships was detected by the company’s government-approved privacy monitor in 2013. But it was never revealed to Facebook users, most of whom had not explicitly given the company permission to share their information. Details of those oversight practices were revealed in a letter Facebook sent last month to Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, a privacy advocate and frequent critic of the social media giant.

In the letter, a copy of which Mr. Wyden provided to The New York Times, Facebook wrote that by early 2013 it had entered into data-sharing agreements with seven device makers to provide what it called the “Facebook experience” — custom-built software, typically, that gave those manufacturers’ customers access to Facebook on their phones. Those partnerships, some of which date to at least 2010, fall under a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission drafted in 2011 and intended to oversee the company’s privacy practices.

Read the whole thing. I just assume that anything I put on Facebook, regardless of the alleged settings,will be sold to or otherwise obtained by potentially malign entities.

2. Just what we need now, a rogue First Lady. First Lady Melania Trump publicly called for the President’s deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel, to be fired.  In a word, well, two: Shut up. The felicitous circumstance of marrying someone who is later elected President of the United States confers no expertise or authority. The position of First Lady has no Constitutionally recognized duties, nor does it carry any real power. There is nothing anyone can do to diminish the influence and spouse may have with the President behind closed doors—and that is a problem—but she or the inevitable he must not confuse, confound or otherwise seek to influence affairs of state with public comments and opinions. Why Melania wants Ricardel fired is irrelevant. It’s none of her business.

I just want to point out that I sneezed six times while typing those last four words. Applause, please. Continue reading

I Am True To My Vow: Once AGAIN, Partisan Historian Douglas Brinkley’s Excuse For Hillary Clinton’s Loss Is Incompetent And False History, And As Long As Ignorant Or Dishonest Hacks Keep Repeating It, Ethics Alarms Will Keep Reminding You That They Are Hacks…Like Brinkley

Yes, yes, I know I have written about this several times already. I will keep doing so, too, until this ridiculous piece of Fake History inflicted on the public consciousness by partisan historian Doug Brinkley when he went on CNN election night and lied, I will keep writing it.

Today’s edition comes courtesy of the increasingly inexcusable fools on ABC’s “The View,” who were engaged this week in a Hillary defeat excuse and alibi orgy. Whoopie Goldberg kept darkly hinting of some conspiracy that allowed Trump to triumph (“We may never know why she lost…” Whoopie intoned), while Joy Behar kept saying that Hillary DID win, as if the elections rules don’t count. They were embarrassing, and they were inartuclate, and they made everyone of their viewers dumber by about 50 IQ points, but never mind: I’m going to focus on this blather, by Whoopie…

“You know, there have been very few eight years of one party and eight years of the same party. It doesn’t generally go back to back. The last time I think was Nixon and whoever came in after him was the last. Ford. And he pardoned. That was the last time we had a long stretch. When it wasn’t Democrat, Republican, Democrat Republican. So given all the crap that Obama had to eat from his own party, I don’t think Bernie was going to — I don’t think any Democrat was going to–people were going to vote –“

If you can translate that—Didn’t Whoopie once know how to speak?—, what is rattling around in her head is Brinkley’s false historical note that eight years of Presidents from one party are seldom followed by the election of another President from the same party. This is not just untrue, but spectacularly untrue. As I last wrote here,

…esteemed Presidential historian Doug Brinkley, for reasons known only to himself, went on the air live on CNN and concocted a new alibi for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. using fake history to do it. He said that there were powerful historical patterns at work in Hillary’s defeat, and that it is always hard for any one party to hold the White House for three consecutive terms. Then, as exceptions to the rule and to show how rare the exceptions were, Brinkley cited Reagan successfully pushing George H.W. Bush on the nation as his “third term,” and then went all the way back to 1836 for his other exception, when popular Democrat President Andrew Jackson got his acolyte Martin Van Buren elected to succeed him.

For days after this, I kept hearing Brinkley’s observation cited by talking heads and my disappointed Democratic friends, yet what he had said was wildly, unforgivably untrue. On election night, I ticked off the instances where one party has held the Presidency for more than two terms on the spot, right after Brinkley’s fiction (much to the annoyance of my wife):

After Van Buren, there were a bunch of one term Whigs and Democrats, but Lincoln’s two terms (the last finished by Andrew Johnson) was followed by Grant for two more, Hayes for one, and Garfield/Arthur for four more years. That 6 straight Republican terms, Doug. Then, three terms later, McKinley was elected to two, Teddy Roosevelt for one on top of the McKinley term he finished out, and Teddy anointed Taft as his successor just as Jackson had with Van Buren. That’s four straight Republican terms, or as we call it around my house, “More than two.”

But wait! There’s more! After Wilson and Mrs, Wilson served out two Democratic terms, we got Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, another three Republicans in a row. Then the Democrats made up for those consecutive runs with five straight of their own, courtesy of FDR’s four and Truman beating Dewey. In short, Brinkley gave the nation fake history, which then became fake news.

Continue reading

Announcing “The Fake News Ethics Train Wreck,” And Related Developments [UPDATED]

train-wreck-air

This morning I checked four news sources and caught stories about”fake news” in all of them. Some of this has been fueled by the flesh-meltingly idiotic Comet Ping Pong pizzeria story out of D.C., which culminated in a moron named Edgar Maddison Welch firing an AR-15 inside the joint, saying later that he was horrified at the reports that the establishment was at the center of a child sex ring run by…wait for it…the Clinton campaign. He got some bad information, Welch told authorities.  Ya think???

No, Ed, you got a really bad education in America’s rotten public schools, and before that you were playing hop-scotch when the brains were handed out.

What prompted Ethics Alarms to officially move the fake news uproar into Ethics Train Wreck status, however, was the interview CNN had this morning with two small business owners in the same block as the evil pizza place. “The internet isn’t regulated like it could or should be,” one said, with no comment or clarification from CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. Politicians are among those who have to address this problem, agreed her partner.

In other words, we need internet censorship. Oh, they did say that citizens should be a bit more discerning before grabbing an AR-15 and shooting up a pizza parlor because someone on Instagram said that John Podesta was selling little girls and boys, but obviously the big arm of the State has to step in.

In other developments:

  • The fake Washington Post news story about fake news that I highlighted here may prompt a defamation law suit from one of the organizations that the Post accused, without checking their source, of spreading fake news.

“You did not provide even a single example of ‘fake news’ allegedly distributed or promoted by Naked Capitalism or indeed any of the 200 sites on the PropOrNot blacklist,” James A. Moody, attorney for Naked Capitalism, a finance and economics blog with a stated mission of “shedding light on the dark and seamy corners of finance,” wrote to the Post. “You provided no discussion or assessment of the credentials or backgrounds of these so-called ‘researchers’ (Clint Watts, Andrew Weisburd, and J.M. Berger and the ‘team’ at PropOrNot), and no discussion or analysis of the methodology, protocol or algorithms such ‘researchers’ may or may not have followed.”*

Highlights from that 120-page report:

  • Since 1980, U.S. GDP per capita growth has been far below its long run average, and since 2007 it has been almost negligible.
  • Deterioration in the quality-to-cost ratio for healthcare, housing and education is dragging down economic growth. After spiraling price increases, these sectors accounted for 36 percent of total national spending in 2015, up from 25 percent in 1980.
  •  The U.S. population’s health has stagnated or even declined on several measures since 1980, especially for the working-age population.
  • Housing costs have swallowed up a larger share of income without a corresponding increase in quality.
  • Educational quality is weak and stagnant at all levels. The U.S. education system has failed to instill any measurable gains in the cognitive performance of children and young adults for decades, as U.S. students and adults struggle with poor rates of literacy and numeracy despite high spending growth.

You know…”a strong economy.”

Would you like to speculate on which fake news had a greater likely impact on the popular vote for President—the Pope’s endorsement, Podesta’s pizza parlor sex ring, or that nifty Democratic policies had the national economy working like a Swiss watch? Continue reading

“Fake News” Ethics: Top Ten Culprits (And Facebook Isn’t One Of Them)

pope-trump

“Fake News” is now a big topic in the news media, as it tries to lead public attention away from legitimate scrutiny of its own bias and incompetence, Facebook, in particular, is the target of this outcry, because the false narrative (should Facebook also be helped responsible for policing false narratives?) that fake news drove Donald Trump’s shocking victory is more palatable than the accurate narrative that Trump was opposed by the only candidate so corrupt, dishonest and inept that he had a chance of winning.

Here’s an interesting study of how Facebook’s algorithms circulates news stories that are made up. The focus on this kind of fake news, however, creates a fake picture of the problem that over-emphasizes hoax stories, many of which, apparently, come from teens in Macedonia exploiting American online gullibility for profit. The problem is that Americans are so ignorant that when some of them read a story that says  the Pope endorsed Donald Trump, they believe it. (Popes don’t endorse presidential candidates, and if anyone conscious thinks about it for five minutes, they should be able to figure out why.) The problem is that 40% of Americans are so lazy that they get their news from social media (and another chunk gets its news from comedy shows.)

The Blame Facebook theory is that because Facebook is foolishly relied upon by inept and gullible citizens to get their information about the world, Facebook has to take on the impossible task of vetting news items.

Facebook, however, is neither trustworthy nor competent to do this. Facebook is biased. Facebook is overrun with social justice warriors whose idea of what Facebook should censor is anything that offends them. For example:

Mark Zuckerberg had to fend off employees during the U.S. presidential campaign who wanted to censor billionaire Donald Trump’s posts due to alleged hate speech. Controversial statements by Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign in December forced Mr. Zuckerberg to quash a mini-mutiny of staffers who threatened to quit if they could not delete the candidate’s posts. Sources close to the matter told The Wall Street Journal that some of the comments in question involved a plan to ban Muslim immigrants while the U.S. determines how to best combat the Islamic State group.

Biased selections regarding which news to print while censoring the statements of a Presidential candidate are at least as misleading as fake news.

Presumably Facebook won’t try vet the misleading, dishonest news stories, commentary, links and memes I see flooding Facebook every day, courtesy of my nice, friendly, smart, educated, completely left-biased and right-biased friends who throw absolute garbage out as truth and immediately receive dozens of “Likes” for doing so. These are a lot more visible and just as brain-muddling as any Macedonian fiction. Here’s one example from yesterday, and to the good friend who posted it, I love you dearly but you are gullible and irresponsible:

BREAKING: Trump Announces Plan To ELIMINATE Overtime Pay For 20,000,000 Americans

This is completely false, as one would learn, sort of, by reading the story. Republicans are going to review regulations established in the last 60 days and kill the ones they think are ill-advised, as the law allows Congress to do. One that might be in jeopardy is a recent  rule that requires companies to pay time-and-a-half overtime to employees who make under roughly $47,000. The article also eventually says that it is House Republicans who say they are targeting the rule. So, to summarize:

  • Trump announced no such plan.
  • Nothing is being eliminated, since nobody has received any extra pay to be eliminated.
  • The alleged regulation cancellation wouldn’t take away overtime pay, as the headline states, but the requirement of paying overtime plus 50%.
  • Killing the rule wouldn’t take away such overtime or ban it; employers would still be free to pay time and a half at their discretion.

In short, the headline is fake news, designed to attack Trump. This kind of fake news isn’t included in the linked study, and for good reason. If we fairly call misleading headlines fake news, Facebook would be charged with vetting the mainstream media constantly. What about real quotes, from supposedly reliable people, that falsely spread rumors or specious accusations? Jim Comey did not violate the Hatch Act, as Harry Reid claimed. Trump is not a Nazi, as Howard Dean just claimed. Those quotes are just as misleading than nonsense about the Pope endorsing Donald Trump, but they are real quotes, from well-respected people who are being irresponsible. Continue reading

Ethics Jump Ball: What Is An Ethical Reaction To This Story?

Pippa-Bacca

From the BBC (2008):

An Italian woman artist who was hitch-hiking to the Middle East dressed as a bride to promote world peace has been found murdered in Turkey.

The naked body of Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo, 33, known as Pippa Bacca, was found in bushes near the northern city of Gebze on Friday.

She had said she wanted to show that she could put her trust in the kindness of local people.

Turkish police say they have detained a man in connection with the killing.

Reports say the man led the police to the body.

I think I’ll add my reactions to the comments.

Fragments can be found in the tags.

You go first.

__________________

Pointer: Red Flag

Whole Foods Thinks Its Customers Are Idiots…And They Are Right!

asparagus-waterThis sounds like a fake Saturday Night Live commercial. What it is, however, is an example of how affluent shoppers who are gulled into paying premium prices for upscale marketing ploys eventually forfeit the respect of the retailers who serve them, and end up fleeced like the metaphorical sheep they are.

The Whole Foods in Brentwood, California is offering bottles labeled “Asparagus Water” for  $5.99 each. The bottles appear to be filled with water and three stalks of raw asparagus.

A call to the supermarket by the food site Eater at first produced a denial that the product existed. Eventually the inquirer reached someone in the produce department who  explained that the product was new. When asked how “asparagus water” is made, he explained that “It’s water, and we sort of cut asparagus stalks down so they’re shorter, and put them into the container…it’s to drink.” He then elaborated, “The nutrients from the asparagus do transfer into the water.” Continue reading

Warning: The Companion Rule To “Bias Makes You Stupid” Is “Immunity To Bias Makes You Dead”

terrorist

The picture above shows Denis Cuspert, a German rapper and the enterprising creator of the T-shirt he is holding in the shot on the left. The photo on the right shows Denis in his current incarnation, Abu Talha Al-Almani. He formally joined the Islamic State sometime in April 2014. It is believed that he has become the Islamic State’s chief propagandist in the German language, inspiring disillusioned young Germans to become jihadists. In November 2014, he appeared in an Islamic State video holding a severed head.

I saw the photo above online this morning, and it reminded me that I have never made an important point about bias explicit here. Bias causes a lot of problems, in society and in the life of individuals, but those who furiously condemn bias  and demand that we should eradicate it from human nature are reckless and ignorant, and often dishonest as well. Bias is a crucial evolutionary feature that allows human beings to avoid making the same mistake twice, or a hundred times. It is linked to trust, and leads to wariness. Without the ability to form biases, every one of us would be fatally naive, and a victim waiting to be harmed. Continue reading