Tag Archives: incompetence

Observations On The La Jolla High Cartoon Controversy

I was going to make this an Ethics Quiz, but category that  can’t quite encompass the issues involved, and the more I considered it, the more certain I became of what should have happened. Here is the story:

A student-drawn cartoon was  published last month in the La Jolla High School’s “Hi-Tide” newspaper. It depicted eight ethnic groups in a blatantly stereotypical manner ( which is to say, it was a cartoon), with each figure pictured wearing T-shirts with messages  reinforcing the stereotypes. The cartoonist’s purpose was to lampoon the controversial H&M ad that caused the company to pull the ad and apologize:

Here was the student’s cartoon…

The requisite number of sensitive students and /or their sensitive parents complained about the cartoon to compel the school principal to grovel an apology, saying that the decision to publish the cartoon was an “error in judgment and a breach of all the values we hold dear at La Jolla High School,” since the cartoon depicted multiple ethnic groups as “ugly racial stereotypes.”

Observations: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Dunces, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/12/18: The Media’s Cognitive Dissonance Scale Debacle

Good morning!

It’s  a Cognitive Dissonance Scale (CDS) fiasco! I know I’ve been flogging the scale recently, but it’s not my fault widespread ignorance of Dr. Festinger’s invention is running amuck. Here is the scale (again)…

Remember, the theory, born out daily in practice, is that we subconsciously move people, things and ideas up and down the preference scale according to their connections to other people, things and ideas with strong positive or negative scale scores. This was the theory behind Ram Trucks using Martin Luther King Jr. as a pitch man in the much-reviled Super Bowl ad, which we discussed in the post From The Scary Tales Of The Cognitive Dissonance Scale Files: The Ram Trucks Super Bowl Commercial.  [Incidentally, those Ram ad writers weren’t quite as dumb as I thought. While the response to the ad over-all indicated that the Mad Men miscalculated regarding the Scale, some data showed that they were right about the black audience, just not right enough. A Morning Consult survey of 1,579 U.S. adults who viewed the ad indicated that 48%  of African-Americans said the ad gave them a more favorable view of Ram, while 17% said it gave them a less favorable view of the bran,  and 30% said it made no difference. That means that MLK was so high on the African-American scale that his positive value even overcame the negative value of shameless exploitation, and that attaching King to the trucks did, in fact, elevate the product’s scale value.]

Looking again at the scale, let us assume that most rational Americans place North Korea very low. How low? How low can can you go? The poverty-stricken Asian nation is dragged down by the fact that it was (and technically still is) a hostile enemy of the U.S. in the Korean War It is a Communist nation, a dictatorship, a brutal dictatorship, a human rights criminal, and most Americans have “being threatened with nuclear weapons” quite low on their personal scales as well.

For the sake of argument, let’s say North Korea’s CDS value is -100. (Imagine there is a zero after all of the numbers on the scale; the N/S is really of infinite length in both directions.)

Now, what would you say is the scale’s value for the U.S. news media? Journalists are under the delusion that their positive numbers are high. They should be high, and they have always been high before, but the last several years of blatant bias and incompetence have lowered them considerably. For me, the news media is in negative numbers already, but just for the sake of the exercise, let’s say that the news media has a faintly positive public scale score of +20.

How about the Olympics? For some reason the Olympics still have a positive rating on the scale, though nowhere near where it once was. That positive rating is why NBC paid a fortune for the broadcasting rights, hoping for big viewer ratings, but also assuming that the high Olympics Cognitive Dissonance Scale score would yank the network’s own score up the scale.

I’ll peg the Olympics scale rating at +50. I don’t really believe it’s that high, especially the Winter version.

Finally, the last ingredient of this complex Cognitive Dissonance Scale excursion is President Trump. There is no way that the President of the United Sates is in scale negative numbers, which are distinct from poll approval ratings.  If he were a Pet Rock, the office, the history, and the symbolic nature of his role would take any President over the mid-line.  If the Olympics audience were entirely made up of “the resistance,” this would be another matter, but it is not. If anything, I would guess, though I don’t know, that the 30% or so  bitter Trump-haters among the public would tend to be less interested in the national pride orgy the Olympics typically presents than the less-deranged portion of the public. Again, for the sake of the exercise, I’ll put President Trump at -0-, neutral territory.

What has happened since the Olympics began is that the mainstream media has been gushing approval over the North Koreans–their athletes, their creepy cheerleading squad, and most of all, Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong–all propaganda tools— while sneering disapproval at the President’s representative at the Games, Mike Pence. As some wags on social media have pointed out, this is roughly the equivalent of swooning over Eva Braun during the 1936 Munich Olympics. Wrote the Daily Caller, fairly and accurately, Continue reading

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Salon Declares That God Is A Bad Writer

Morons.

Valerie Tarico, psychologist and writer who runs a gimmicky ethics blog,  and her editors at Salon decided that it would be clever and smart to launch a frontal attack on the Bible, and by extension most devout Christians, by arguing that because the book is full of, according to her, “mixed messages, repetition, bad fact-checking, awkward constructions, inconsistent voice, weak character development, boring tangents, contradictions, passages where nobody can tell what the heck the writer meant to convey,”  it isn’t authentic:

“Millions of evangelicals and other Christian fundamentalists believe that the Bible was dictated by God to men who acted essentially as human transcriptionists. If that were the case, one would have to conclude that God is a terrible writer. Many passages in the Bible would get kicked back by any competent editor or writing professor, kicked back with a lot of red ink—often more red than black…This doesn’t sound like a book that was dictated by a deity.”

The obvious intent of the Tarico and Salon was to mock the Bible, not engage in a serious examination of its origins, and ridicule Christians who revere it. There is no benign justification for this mission; it is just gratuitously nasty, disrespectful, and anti-Christian. Ethics Alarms no longer has a vocal, militant atheist among its regular commenters—Where have you gone, tgt? The blog turns its lonely eyes to you!-–but I suspect even he would find this essay irresponsible. It is especially so since the essay begins with an ignorant proposition which so many commenters flagged that Salon pulled down the post. Nobody claims that God dictated the Bible. Then there are the related matters of multiple translations, translations of translations, and the undisputed fact that different authors (including, many scholars believe, William Shakespeare) from different periods wrote separate parts of the book in their own words. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/9/2018: Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck Update Edition. Sorry.

 

Good Morning.

I don’t say “I told you so” as often as I could or would like to. One continuing theme at Ethics Alarms since the 2016 election that drove progressives mad has been the accusation leveled at me that I have been under-emphasizing the existentially perilous character and conduct of the President while concentrating too much on the conduct of his critics. My answer has been that I believe that the reaction of progressives, Democrats and the news media to President Trump’s election has been, by far, the most disturbing ethics story of the past year, and in historical context one of the most serious and dangerous periods in U.S. history. That conclusion has been reinforced as the year progressed. I was and am right.

None of that makes the ethical conduct of the Trump Presidency any better than it is; as I made clear in last year’s ethics audit,  he has largely behaved as I expected he would when I declared him, over and over again, unfit and unqualified. However, if our institutions and the public’s trust in them remain as strong as they have through-out U.S. history, a single odd-ball President, even for two terms, will not do irreparable damage. What the resistance and its allies in the Democratic Party and the news media are doing, however, threatens to wreck many of those institutions and tear down public trust to a point of no return. That’s my professional assessment. It is not one based on partisan politics or ideology, but on American history, cultural history, and ethics.

1 Fake news and fake history. I knew it was manufactured nonsense when my Facebook friends, Democrats, pundits and the mainstream news media began once again screaming “Fascist!” and claiming that the President’s expressed desire for a major military parade was a terrifying departure from American tradition. I knew a little research would prove it so, but then, I thought, surely some news source would have the integrity to do its job, and some “nationally recognized historian,” like go-to Democratic shills like CNN’s Douglas Brinkley, would set the record straight. Why should I have to do the work for free that these people are paid handsome fees to do, and have a duty to do besides?

Yet few corrections from these supposedly objective sources were registered while Rep. Adam Smith (D-CA) said, “A military parade of this kind would also be a departure from the values of our constitutional democracy,” and Rep, Ted Lieu (D-CA) sneered, “Because authoritarian regimes like Russia and North Korea hold massive military parades does not mean that we must as well. Politico headlined, “Trump’s Military Parade Draws Bipartisan Rebuke.” The Washington Post told readers,  “Military Parades Are About Ego and Power. Of Course Trump Wants One.”  Normally reasonable bloggers were similarly triggered, like Prof. Jonathan Turley, who wrote, “The United States has long rejected the holding of military parades featuring tanks, missiles and other heavy weapons as a symbol of authoritarian regimes like the Soviet Union, North Korea and other countries.”

I guess this depends on what one’s definition of “long” is. Such parades have been out of style since the Vietnam War caused much of the public and the political class to turn against the military, though politicians still give deceit-laden lip-service to “supporting the troops,” just not what they do. Military parades featuring heavy weaponry were not uncommon between the end of the Civil War in 1865 through 1961 during the peak of the Cold War, when it was arguably strategically beneficial to remind the USSR that if it was going to bury us, there would be a fight.  Many of these parades, in 1919, 1942, 1946, 1953, 1957, 1961, and as recently as 1991, featured tanks, missiles, and sometimes many thousands of troops  Let’s see: that’s Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and George H.W. Bush…Hitlers all. That there is Chuck Schumer, a leader of the party having the vapors over the President’s suggestion, saying this: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Romance and Relationships, War and the Military, Workplace

From The Scary Tales Of The Cognitive Dissonance Scale Files: The Ram Trucks Super Bowl Commercial

Perhaps more than any other field of endeavor, advertising depends on the Secret of the Cognitive Dissonance Scale. But the scale abused is a jealous and angry mistress, as Chrysler/ Fiat discovered when its Super Bowl for Ram Trucks turned into a public relations disaster.

It must have seemed so simple! Brainstorming about how to promote Ram Trucks while appealing to a divided the country during the iconic NFL game, after a year in which pro football in particular was torn by strife over players, mostly black, kneeling during the National Anthem to protest something or other, depending on which helmeted social justice warrior you asked, some rising, present-day Mad Man, cynical to the core, drew Dr. Festinger’s scale on a white board as he shouted, “Eureka!”

“It’s perfect!” the fuzzy cheeked, rising young advertising genius cried, marking the diagram with the red marker. “I know how we drag our truck up the scale!”

“Ram is a powerful truck and a symbol of toxic manhood, when everyone’s talking about how men, and especially white men, are the source of all that’s rotten in Denmark! Well, not Denmark, but here. You know what I mean. Anyway, for some of our clients we’ve been using little, scrawny, androgynous guys as spokesmen, like the geek Lou dreamed up for Petsmart.

 

He’s not scary, and you know he must be a Hillary voter. But come on: this dork probably drives a Smartcar. We can’t use someone like him to promote a truck. No, Fred, we can’t use a sexy female model, either, like we used to. Sexy models are now below zero on the scale. They’d pull our trucks DOWN. Oh, a lot of men would still secretly love this stuff like we used to do,

but now  their girl friends or wives or daughters would glare at them, and getting flack from women in the family is LOW on the scale. So sex is out. Sorry.

Now, the Petsmart geek does have a dog with him. Dogs are high on the scale, as we all know: Ralph, you were the one came up the ad with the Golden Retriever driving the Subaru, right?

 

Gold! But come on: kids and dogs have been done to death in Super Bowl ads. There will probably be all sorts of cute dog ads during the Super Bowl; there always are. [ Actually, there weren’t…]  So think: we want a man’s voice, a manly man, but one that doesn’t scream white male patriarchy or Harvey Weinstein.  We want someone the fans of those National Anthem protests and Black Lives Matter will have high on their Cognitive Dissonance Scale, so associating Ram Trucks with him will yank the trucks right up. We also want someone  the fans who were getting sick of political grandstanding when they wanted to watch a football game also admire, someone who knew how and why to protest. And, at the same time, we want Ram to look socially conscious—you know, “woke.”

One figure, and only one, will do all that, from a position so high on the scale that we can’t lose! Martin Luther King! Heck, all of those blue collar workers just got a day off because of the guy; it’s fresh on their minds. They love him! A day-off pulls MLK right up the scale himself!

And look: I did some googling, and found this from some speech he gave: “If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. … By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. … You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know the theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

Great stuff, right? There’s “greatness: for the MAGA crowd, and “love,” which is Scale magic, and we can fill the ad with heartwarming scenes—with kids!

—all leading up to our Dodge Trucks theme, ‘Ram trucks are built to serve‘!

The cheering in the meeting room was deafening.

Morons.

Today, that once rising ad exec starts his new job at Taco Bell.

Martin Luther King didn’t pull Dodge Trucks up the scale. Cynical exploitation of a civil rights icon and turning a black martyr into Morgan Freeman’s competition as a rival pitch man (Morgan was doing Mountain Dew) is so low on the Cognitive Dissonance Scale that it pulled the product’s rating right through the floor.

This is rank incompetence. If you are going to try to exploit the image and words of a dead hero, at least learn something about him. At the time of his death, King was getting ready to make a push for socialist reforms, which meant attacking capitalism. You also should read the whole speech you are cherry picking from; you can bet someone else will. Here’s a section from that same speech:

“…we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. … I got to drive this car because it’s something about this car that makes my car a little better than my neighbor’s car. … I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I’m going to continue to say it to America.”

This means that using King’s voice and words to appear to endorse a truck ad seen by millions is a lie.

The King family’s greed and poor stewardship of King’s image also shares some of the blame for the fiasco. The King Center quickly went on  Twitter to say that neither the organization nor the Rev. Bernice King, one of Dr. King’s daughters, was responsible for approving the offensive Super Bowl commercial. That’s not exactly true. Eric D. Tidwell, the managing director of Intellectual Properties Management, the licenser for the estate, said that Ram, as it must, came to them for permission to use King’s name, voice and words. “Once the final creative was presented for approval, it was reviewed to ensure it met our standard integrity clearances,” he said in a statement. “We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others.”

Obviously the King family did not take proper steps to ensure that those who handle the family profit center depending on commercial uses of Dr. King’s legacy understand the difference between embodying Dr. King’s philosophy and cynically distorting it to sell stuff. Intellectual Properties Management is paid to take the PR hit, but I’d be willing to bet that such a high profile use of King was approved by the family itself. After all, King isn’t pulled down the scale by a foolish commercial. The controversy might even help King’s image, by sending people to read the speech. Maybe the King family knew the commercial would burn Ram, but was willing to take their fee and watch the fun, as the Cognitive Dissonance Scale wreaked its terrible vengeance on those who would abuse its power.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics, History, Marketing and Advertising, Quotes, Race

Comment Of The Day: “Wait, WHAT? NOW They Tell There Are “Two Big Flaws” in Every Computer?”

The comments on this post about the sudden discovery that every computer extant was vulnerable to hacking thanks to two 20-year-old “flaws” were so detailed, informative and excellent that I had the unenviable choice of posting one representative Comment of the Day, or eight. Having just posted eight COTDs on another post last weekend, I opted for one, but anyone interested in the topic—or in need of education about the issues involved— should go to the original post and read all the comments. Forget the post itself—the comments are better.

Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod‘s Comment of the Day on the post, Wait, WHAT? NOW They Tell There Are “Two Big Flaws” in Every Computer?

This is not likely to be a popular opinion among professional programmers, but I feel it needs to be said.

The excuse that computers are complex and that testing to remove all of these flaws would take a prohibitive amount of time just doesn’t hold water. I understand that security vulnerabilities are different from outright bugs: security vulnerabilities are only problems because people deliberately manipulate the system in unanticipated ways. Bugs happen when people inadvertently manipulate the system in unanticipated ways. Some of these ways are incredibly sophisticated and may be infeasible to anticipate. However, having supported computers for the past few years, I’ve seen bugs that should have been anticipated, and zero testing would be required in order to do so.

The problem with testing is that the people testing usually understand the software well enough to know how it is supposed to work, or they are given a few basic things to try, but they don’t have time to test a program with heavy use. Luckily, testing is not the problem.

The problem is that in many cases I’ve seen (and I’ve come to suspect most cases across the software industry) the input and output footprints of code modules are not documented (and if your code contains comments laying out the pseudocode structure, I consider you very lucky). From an engineering standpoint, the input footprint of a system or subsystem describes the conditions the system assumes to be true in order to work effectively. The output footprint describes what effects (including side-effects) the system has or could have on its environment, including if the input footprint is not fulfilled. Those aren’t the official names; I’ve just been calling them that. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/5/2018: Brrrrrrr!… “Hey!”… Duh!… And “WHAT?”

G-g-g-good M-m-m-morning!

1 Enforcing societal standards in the cold. Today, as we ran errands in 13 degree weather and gusting winds to fetch my sick son some chicken soup and DayQuil, my wife witnessed the following episode at the 7-11. With a long line behind him, a man stood at the register meticulously picking lottery numbers. A woman in line confronted him directly, saying, “You came out in this cold just to waste your money on the lottery? You’re sick. Save your money. Be responsible. Get help”

Brava.

Driving home, we saw many parents walking their children to Alexandria schools (which delayed their opening here two hours.) At an intersection near the school across a parking lot from our home, my wife and I saw a young girl, maybe seven or eight, with her father, about to cross the street. The girl had a winter jacket on and a hat, but only thin leggings and—get this—sneakers with no socks. The wind chill outside here is estimated at -4.

We didn’t say anything to the father. Should we have? I think so.

2. More state lottery ethics. Speaking of unethical state lotteries, which could only become ethical if the states eliminated them, you will recall Item #4 in the 12/28/17 warm-up, about how South Carolina had bollixed up its lottery and is deciding whether to stiff the winners, since there were far too many of them thanks to computer programming error. That state needs to follow the ethical example of Connecticut.

After an error was discovered in how the drawing was handled—involving 100,000 tickets—the lottery posted a notice on its official website saying there was indeed a problem with the drawing, and that “due to an error in the range of tickets eligible for the Super Draw drawing, a second drawing will take place shortly. HOLD ALL TICKETS.” Later it announced,  through this statement from Interim Lottery President & CEO Chelsea Turner: Continue reading

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