Ethics Dunce: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI.)

 

These two, I can tell apart…

Representative Tlaib is the least recognized of the renegade, embarrassing members of “The Squad,” sort of like José Carreras of “The Three Tenors,” who was always the one nobody could remember after naming Plácido Domingo and  Luciano Pavarotti. She is best known, perhaps, for repeating her classy motto “Impeach the motherfucker!” Maybe people will now remember her for the blight on Congress that she proved she is after her latest debacle.

Tlaib recently called upon the Detroit Chief of Police James Craig to hire only blacks  to run the department’s facial recognition program. Following a demonstration of the technology, Tlaib said,  “Analysts need to be African-Americans, not people that are not. It’s true, I think non-African-Americans think African-Americans all look the same!” Her proof for that statement is that people often confuse Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

I plead guilty: I have always had trouble keeping them straight. That’s because they are both ancient House members who rest on their civil rights era laurels, who engage in race-baiting as a matter of course, and who both have shaved heads. Quick, now: which is Cummings, and which is Lewis?

I also used to get actresses Jaimie Pressly and Margot Robbie mixed up, as does  almost everyone else. (That’s Pressly on the left, Robbie on the right.)

Does that prove white people think all white people look the same?

Oh, never mind. Still, one would like to think a member of Congress would know that such a hiring requirement would violate anti-discrimination laws, in addition to being based on racial bias . Craig responded, “I trust people who are trained, regardless of race, regardless of gender,”  and called Tlaib’s suggestion “racist.” To be kind, I’d just call it ignorant and stupid.

Not for the first time, Tlaib doesn’t know what she’s blathering on about. In Facial Recognition Technology,  the operator doesn’t make the identification, programed algorithms do.  That’s the whole point.  Not to be dissuaded by facts, or her fundamental misunderstanding of the issue, Tlaib has written an  op-ed  or The Detroit News denouncing FRT as “racist technology.”

Incidentally, one of Margot Robbie’s notable roles was in “The Suicide Squad.”

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Source: Res Ipsa Loquitur 1, 2

The Scourge Of Technologically Ignorant Judges

The American Bar Association and most state bars have added an ethical requirement for lawyers to be competent and knowledgeable regarding relevant technology. In 2012, the ABA adopted an amendment to ABA Model Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.1, comment 8, providing that “a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology . . . .” Since then, at least twenty-seven states have officially adopted Comment 8 or some version of it as part of their rules of professional conduct. It’s still a long slog; many lawyers, far too many, are limited to email and Google searches, and often aren’t sufficiently adept at either.  There should be such a requirement in every jurisdiction, and the ABA language is far too vague and lenient.

Judges, however, often make lawyers look like  cyber-whizzes. Here’s a ridiculous example from Franklin Country in Washington, where superior court judges disagreed with their clerk about transitioning from paper to electronic files.  The clerk “deemed it unnecessary” to incur the expense of maintaining duplicate paper files after a paperless filing system was implemented . The judges declared an emergency (!) and issued an order directing clerks to keep paper files. One gutsy, probably soon to be unemployed clerk refused. The judges then appointed a special prosecutor to pursue civil claims against the clerk. Continue reading

Brand New Week Full Of Hope And Promise Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/9/2019

Ah! I also feel wefweshed!

1. On torturing the homeless with earworms. The city of West Palm Beach, Florida  has been blaring the horrible kids song “Baby Shark,” as well as another annoying song in the genre, “Raining Tacos,” outside an event center to drive homeless people away. Listen…

The homeless and their advocates object to the tactic as cruel and counter-productive. The city says it only wants to make them go to homeless shelters.

This is a case of “ick” rather than unethical conduct. Music is used to keep subjects of torture awake in some cases, and auditory assault by kids’ songs is only different in kind from high-pitched beeps and  other more direct methods used around the country, such as recordings of chain saws . Some cities have even outfitted parks and public spaces with devices that blast a high-frequency sound that only teenagers and young people can hear.

The use of annoying songs passes the utilitarian test, I think. In this case, the desired end justifies the means. I will change that assessment of there is evidence that one or both of the two songs are literally driving the homeless insane.

That is a distinct possibility. Here’s “Raining Tacos”:

2. Let’s try to think of the least qualified, most objectionable candidates who would still be better than this trio...It’s official!  Mark Sanford, who had to resign as South Carolina governor to avoid being impeached after going AWOL and conspiring to cover it up as he secretly visited his soul mate, a South American seductress, or, as such were called in less politically correct times,  “firecracker,” has now declared that he will accept the GOP nomination for President.  He now joins failed semi-Republican Senate candidate and Gary Johnson running mate William Weld, who is 74 and hasn’t held office in 22 years; he distinguished himself as a nominee of the Independent Party by announcing that he would vote for Hillary Clinton.  Then there’s Joe Walsh, who spent all of one term in the House, and was reduced to being a radio talk show host after it was revealed that he was a deadbeat dad.

The news media is faking fainting spells because the Republican National Committee is not going to hold debates among this ridiculous crew, and is cancelling primaries as well. The RNC’s position isn’t unethical, it is responsible. I held in 2015 that  the GOP had no obligation to allow Trump to run for the GOP nomination, and he was a more acceptable and serious candidate than any of these fools—which is not to say that he was serious or acceptable. These are three dead in the water political failures trying to use NeverTrump hate to breath life into the corpses of their careers.

Here’s how bad they are: I’d vote for Newt Gingrich (ugh) or Mitch McConnell (ugh X infinity) over any of them.

3.  And this is why our rights are in real and immediate danger. From the Washington Post:

“Americans across party and demographic lines overwhelmingly support expanded background checks for gun buyers and allowing law enforcement to temporarily seize weapons from troubled individuals, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, as President Trump and Republicans face fresh pressure to act.”

“Allowing law enforcement to temporarily seize weapons from troubled individuals,” aka the “red flag” laws, is a violation of due process, the Second Amendment, and also a “pre-crime” measure. The public support sit because a) unscrupulous politicians demagogue the issue of gun control, b)the average American, thanks to our incompetent public school system, can’t distinguish a constitutional right from prickly pear, and c) limiting the rights of hypothetical “bad people” is so easy, compared to when one’s own rights are being infringed.

This is a useful poll, because it shows how vulnerable the ignorant are to politicians who want to take over their autonomy and weaken our democracy under the impetus of “do something.” Who is going to explain to these millions of inattentive people with weak critical thinking skills why “red flag” laws are the totalitarian camel;s nose in the tent? President Trump, with his junior high school level rhetoric?  Me, with my essays that violate Facebook standards? The news medi-ack! Ack! Gag! Cough! I couldn’t even that ridiculous possibility out. Who?

And who gets to define a “troubled individual”? Anyone with symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress? That describes 90% of the people I know. Those with irrational anger and obsessions? That’s  the entire Trump-hating Facebook Borg, based on my reading this week. People with rocky marriages, conflicts at work with supervisors and co-workers; ranting bloggers? Charles M. Blow? Kurt Schlicter? Stephen Colbert? Alec Baldwin?

We have a dumb, ignorant, lazy, badly educated, civically incompetent  electorate that the news media and politicians want to make worse on all counts, and work constantly to accomplish that goal.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/4/2019: “Is We Getting Dummer?”* Edition.

The old Simon and Garfunkle song accurately describes when I woke up this morning…

1. I think that settles it. I’m going to flush myself down the toilet...Yesterday, an educated, adult woman of my acquaintance told her Facebook friends about her terrible treatment by Alamo Rental Cars. When a FBF responded with a refeence to Santa Anna, she replied, “???” Yes, she had no idea what “Alamo” referred to. This speaks to a catastrophic failure of the American education system.

On the bright side,  ignorant citizens are the target audience of many of the highest polling Democratic candidates for President.

2. Ethics Hero: Whoopi Goldberg? On ABC’s “The View,” a show that relentlessly lowers the IQ of anyone who watches it for more than 5 minutes, co-host Whoopi Goldberg began the first show of the new season to condemn efforts in actors in Hollywood to  blacklist conservatives and Trump supporters, a practice encouraged by tweets from   “Will and Grace”  stars  Debra Messing and  Eric McCormack over the weekend. After some back and forth with the assorted idiots who share the panel with her, Whoopi said,

Listen, last time people did this, people ended up killing themselves. This is not a good idea, okay? Your idea of who you don’t want to work with is your personal business. Do not encourage people to print out lists because the next list that comes out, your name will be on and then people will be coming after you. No one — nobody — we had something called a blacklist and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff. Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they lost their right to work. You don’t have the right in this country. People can vote for who they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country. You don’t have to like it, but we don’t — we don’t go after people because we don’t like who they voted for. We don’t go after them that way. We can talk about issues and stuff but we don’t print out lists, and I’m sure you guys misspoke when you said that because you — it sounded like a good idea. Think about it. Read about it. Remember what the blacklist actually meant to people, and don’t encourage anyone, anyone to do it!

I wonder how many people who don’t know about the Alamo know about the blacklist? Continue reading

More Cultural Literacy: The “Hard” Citizenship Questions.

In one of the many ways the news media tries to influence public attitudes (which is not its job), the New York Times is constantly including propaganda of various subtlety to bolster the case of illegal immigrants, or as the Times dishonestly calls them, “migrants,” “undocumented immigrants,” or just “immigrants,” the most deceitful label of all. One sally consisted of arguing how unfair it was that those applying for citizenship had to answer questions that current citizens would struggle with.

A recent example was a quiz, culled from the 100 questions that examiners pick from at random when an aspiring citizen is completing the application process. “With your American citizenship on the line, could you answer the following question?” the piece began. “Take a moment. Because, according to a 2011 study, this is the hardest of the 100 possible questions asked on the United States citizenship test.”

That question was “How many Constitutional Amendments are there?” (The answer is 27.) Yeah, that’s pretty difficult. It also isn’t especially meaningful to a citizen; I’m not big on specific dates and numbers: if you know enough to look them up, then you know enough. In other words, a citizen should know that there’s a right to legal representation, a speedy trial, to vote, to assemble, to worship as one pleases, and that a President can be removed from office if he’s physically unable to perform his duties without checking, but whether the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment is the 8th or 9th Amendment is essentially a trivial detail.

Not if you’re an immigrant trying to gain the privilege of American citizenship, however. There is nothing at all unfair about requiring new citizens to demonstrate the commitment and dedication necessary to learn about their new nation. Most lawyers couldn’t pass the bar exam now without studying again; it’s the same principle. It would be better if Americans didn’t take their nation and its history for granted, but that’s human nature, and they know that their citizen cannot be taken from them for mere ignorance, even if they don’t know where that guarantee is in the Constitution.

The Times:

One survey found that 64 percent of American citizens would fail the test…Immigrants taking the exam as part of their citizenship application tend to fare much better. The combined pass rate for the civics exam and an English evaluation performed in the same interview is 91 percent, U.S.C.I.S. reported in December.

Good. One of the privileges of citizenship is to become lazy and ignorant, but we don’t want you here if you start out that way.

Here are the rest of the hardest ten. (I got them all right, as I should have. They are not truly hard, or shouldn’t be.) Continue reading

Comments Of The Day: “Dear Ethics Alarms: I Am An Advice Columnist Who Is Ignorant And Phobic About Guns….”

“Am I holding it right?”

In the comments to yesterday’s post discussing the jaw-dropping ignorance and anti-gun bias displayed by a popular advice columnist, the question again arose as to why anti-gun advocates remain so uninformed about their own passion, and don’t bother to educate themselves sufficiently that they won’t sound like idiots—like, for example, “Ask Amy,” who confused hollow-point bullets with armor-piercing bullets, said the hollow-points were “exploding bullets,” referred to a common and popular handgun as the kind of weapon criminals use, and suggested that owning a gun was a dangerous sign of hidden criminal activity.

Glenn Logan, in the first of the two  Comments of the Day that were sparked by “Dear Ethics Alarms: I Am An Advice Columnist Who Is Ignorant And Phobic About Guns. When I Get A Question About Guns, What Should I Do?, theorized thusly…

I think perhaps because they believe it unnecessary and irrelevant. Guns are bad regardless of the use or competence of the person owning them, and that badness is imputed, in large degree, to their owner. It’s a kind of guilt by association — if you own a gun, there is something fundamentally wrong with you based on that fact alone. Guns = Bad, and how they or their ammunition works is just a meaningless detail that couldn’t possibly interest an enlightened person.

You can tell by the way firearms opponents argue their points that they neither know nor care about the function of firearms. They don’t think all that stuff matters, and in their minds, no amount of facts can overcome the one simple judgment that firearm ownership is undesirable in advanced societies.

It is possible that the gun-haters actually fear knowledge about firearms — they fear they may be seduced by their apparently powerful evil, and thereby tempted to become what they not just despise, but actively want to despise. Continue reading

“Dear Ethics Alarms: I Am An Advice Columnist Who Is Ignorant And Phobic About Guns. When I Get A Question About Guns, What Should I Do?”

Bullets, shmullets, what’s the difference?

“Ask Amy,” authored by Amy Dickinson, is one of the mid-level practitioners of the syndicated advice columnist’s craft—not consistently brilliant like Carolyn Hax, not as persistently wrong-headed as the now mercifully retired Emily Yoffe at Slate.

A recent letter to Amy read,

Dear Amy: This week, I discovered that my intelligent, hard-working, responsible 24-year-old daughter (who lives with me) is a gun owner! And it’s not a normal gun, either — it is a 40-caliber semi-automatic, and she has hollow-point bullets to go with it. Amy, this is the kind of weapon a criminal would possess! She says it is for emergencies. There have only been two home invasions in our neighborhood in the last 11 years. I’ve given her three choices: She can either give her weapon to me, sell it or move out in three weeks. I love my daughter and would be so sad for her to move into a place that she would hardly be able to afford, but now I have to lock my bedroom door at night because I don’t know what she’s going to do. Now she says that I don’t trust her, and is barely speaking to me. How can I convince her to stop endangering us?—Dumbfounded Father

Let’s make a couple of observations right away.

  • The father has every right to refuse to let the daughter keep a gun in his house; she is his guest. Nor was it respectful, fair or honest for her to bring a gun into the house without telling her host. I don’t know what the writer thinks is a “normal gun,” but a 40-caliber semi-automatic is certainly one in this day and age.

The writer is apparently frightened by the scary “semi-automatic” part, which just means he is unfamiliar with firearms that wouldn’t be used by Hopalong Cassidy.

  • “Amy, this is the kind of weapon a criminal would possess!” is free-floating anti-gun hysteria.

It’s also a gun a law-abiding citizen would possess, except that such a  gun would be possessed legally. Continue reading