Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/19: Insomnia Edition

Jeez, what time is it?

This stuff  kept me awake, gave me nightmares, or made me wish I was dreaming. Started this post before 5 am…

1. Idiotic meme of the week:

A lawyer friend whom I can vouch for having a brain actually posted this thing, apparently approvingly. In zombie movies, the equivalent is when a previously normal friend suddenly bites off your nose. Jules Suzdaltsev is hard left progressive journalist whose background is in film and psychology, and would be a fine example for teaching purposes of what someone sounds like who is so far on one side of the ideological spectrum that he is incapable of finding the center. He’s an ideologue and a Leftist incapable of objective analysis or non-compliant thought, who was steeped for seven years in the  rarefied politics of San Francisco, and who tweets deliberate misrepresentations like “There have been more MASS SHOOTINGS in 2019 than there have been DAYS in 2019” and such cliched “resistance” bile like “Hey do you guys remember when the generation that grew up breathing lead fumes ended up voting for this guy as President?”

The scary thing is not Suzdaltsev—he’s a professional left-wing echo chamber provocateur, and good luck to him, glad he has a career. The scary thing is that lawyers, trained in critical thought, can reach the point where they find extremist agitprop persuasive. Society relies on educated, trained professionals to steer us clear of such rot, not to embrace it. The 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck has seen one professional group after another abandon this duty for mob-pleasing expediency.

And how can someone post a statement that Bernie and Warren are barely left-of-center as anything but satire?

2. Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide, hanging himself in his cell. This was gross incompetence by the New York City jail, as well as federal authorities. If there ever was a prisoner who was a candidate for suicide (or murder), Epstein was it. He needed to be on a round-the-clock suicide watch. Epstein was allowed to cheat the justice system and his victims. He is now officially innocent of the crimes he was charged with.

Aside from all that, good. The world is better place without him in it. Continue reading

Dinnertime Ethics Appetizer, 8/7/19: Spinning, Tweeting and Joking…[CORRECTED]

…and whatever THIS is…

The jaw-dropping video above has nothing to do with ethics, but after stumbling across this weird and wonderful act late, late last night in a 1944 B-movie musical revue called “Broadway Rhythm,” I’ve decided that the Ross Sisters need to be rescued from obscurity. We will never see the likes of this again. You decide whether that’s a good thing or not….

1. It’s nice to see the Times confessing that it’s a partisan hack news source, don’t you  think? When I posted about the unethical Times headline yesterday (“ASSAILING HATE, BUT NOT GUNS”),  I had no idea that a controversy had already erupted over the previous and subsequently removed headline in an earlier edition (“TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM”), which was attacked as being not negative enough about the President, or that the Times had replaced it in response to an outcry from its main audience, Democrats and Trump-haters.

How can the Times or its defenders pretend to claim that the paper has any integrity at all after such a craven and obviously biased performance?

In a Bizarro World spin job, the Times editor actually described the fiasco this way: “People think we are an important and necessary institution and they hold us to a high standard.”

Oh.

A “high standard” by a news organization is embodied by switching from an objective statement of facts to a partisan and biased one, after anti-Trump readers object! Good is bad, right is wrong, objective reporting is a mistake, the New York Times is the epitome of American journalism.

Nah, there’s no mainstream news media bias!

2. It’s official: nobody knows what racism means any more. Comic Chris Rock concocted a gag meme for Instagram:

Get it? “Betty White” as in “Bet he white!” Ok, it may not be not Oscar Wilde, but it’s clever enough for Instagram. Yet Rock was attacked for being “racist,” not counting the critics who thought he was wishing for the beloved comic actress to be mowed down in a hail of bullets. (Social media is good for causing the idiots among us to self-identify.)

There is nothing racist about the meme. Nothing. NOTHING. Rock’s meme is not suggesting that one race is inferior to another. He is stating a fact—a couple, in fact. The vast, vast majority of mass shooters (and serial killers) are white males. Not all of them, but almost all, which is what make is a bet, and a wise one. The other fact is that when educated, informed people hear about such shootings as we had last week, they assume that either the shooter is a Muslim terrorist, or a crazy white dude.

“If a white person posted this about black people their career would be over but when it’s the other way around nobody gives two shits,” read one social media commenter. “You can’t fight racism with racism, you’re just contributing to the problem. Sad a 17-year-old kid has to say this.”

Yup, it’s sad our 17-year-olds lack the abilities of critical thought and analogy. Rock’s meme wasn’t trying to fight racism, and merely mentioning race doesn’t make observations racist. If a white person posted this about black people, it would be immediately recognized as nonsense. Nobody, even white racists, think that blacks are typical mass shooters.

I’m praying that Rock, who has thus far been adamant about refusing to buckle to political correctness and social media mobs, continues to have the integrity not to apologize.

PLEASE, Chris. You’re my only hope. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/19: Fleas, Fake Movies, False Equivalency, And Female Bigotry

Good Morning!

1. Roger Stone’s arrest a) Stone is a thoroughly loathsome individual—the man has Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, for heaven’s sake—but like the Mueller investigation generally, his arrest seems more like continued politically-motivated harassment of anyone connected to Donald Trump in order to isolate and impede his Presidency rather than part of a legitimate and independent investigation. Stone’s indictment is substantially made up of the now-familiar “obstruction of justice” bootstrap regarding an investigation of a non-crime charge. In Watergate, there was a crime. In the Clinton impeachment, there was a crime (a President lying under oath). In the Valerie Plame fiasco, there was at least a sort-of crime. Even Martha Stewart’s “obstruction of justice” conviction was related to the crime of insider-trading. “Collusion” isn’t a crime, and if Stone lied to Congress about the degree to which he was communicating heads-ups to the Trump campaign about what Wikileaks had and was about to release, that has no implications of wrongdoing for the Trump campaign at all. Stone telling the Trump campaign, “Hey, Wikileaks has a bunch of DNC emails that show Hillary’s campaign was sleazy and that the Clinton Foundation is an influence peddling scam!” isn’t illegal, it isn’t unethical, and I doubt that this sort of communication is unusual for any campaign in any party. b) CNN cameras were on the scene when Stone was arrested, which means the FBI or the Mueller team leaked to CNN. Now THAT’s unethical, and possibly illegal. c) Once again, President Trump’s persistent failure to avoid close contact with obvious slime-balls has caused problems. “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” : It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but for a man who was raised and rose to wealth and power in the dog-dominated worlds of real estate, hotels, casinos, show business and now politics, I suppose its hard to imagine NOT being surrounded by the metaphorically flea-infested.

2. Integrity watch: OK, I no longer know what a “movie” is. Netflix is streaming “Roma,” which was just nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. It has sold no tickets, and as far as I can see, is indistinguishable from any movie-length TV program, like the Christmas drama that spawned “The Waltons,” “The Homecoming.” I though movies were things shown in theater with big screens by projectors. Netflix’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (which is terrific) also got some Oscar nominations. Are Hallmark Christmas weepies now eligible for Oscars? To me, those are “TV shows.” Continue reading

I Break My Own Rule And Publish A Social Media Meme…

Here it is:

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle holds that ethics rules don’t always work in anomalous situations. An Ethics Alarms rule is that internet memes are simple-minded agitprop, lazy ways for the uninformed and the critical thought-challenged to circulate pre-digested talking points and partisan distortions. I hate them.

But I was actually beginning work on a flow chart of the constantly changing arguments against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, and this magically appeared. (Pointer: Instapundit)

It’s perfect, fair, and true.

Bravo.

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 8/29/2018: Amazingly, There Are More Important Ethics Developments Than How Long The White House Flag Was At Half-Mast…

Gooooood Morning!

1 It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part I. On Fox News this morning, they were breathlessly talking about the importance of stopping the publishing of those evil blue-prints of 3-D printable guns. Why, last year, a plastic gun got through TSA security, and it was loaded! And those 3-D printed guns are cheaper than ever! (nobody mentioned that making a 3-D gun that shoots is still incredibly expensive.)

The report was like science fiction, and the woman in a protesting group who said that these guns needed to be stopped NOW! should have had her head wreathed in tin foil. Did Fox discuss the First Amendment issues? No. Did Fox explain that anyone can make their own gun without a 3-D printer? No. Did Fox explain anything relevant to the actual case? Of course not. Did Fox point out that the judge who just issued the injunction admitted that his action abridged speech? No, not that either.

And no, the other news networks weren’t any better.

2. California is ending cash bail. Good. It may backfire, but a statewide experiment somewhere is needed. Bail may be a necessary evil, but the long-time criticism of the system as being biased against the poor has validity, if not a solution. Not every idea Jerry Brown has is bad, just most of them. My guess is that this will be a PR and political disaster, but hey, I don’t live there. The first time a “non-violent” accused criminal kills someone while on his own recognizance, the someone won’t be anyone in my…oops, I forgot, I have a nephew and a niece in California. Well, they’re rabid Democrats and progressives, so they have consented to the risk, I guess.

Amusing reaction: The bail-bondsmen say that they’ll leave the state if this policy stays. Well, of course. Why wouldn’t they leave? What kind of a threat is that?

3. It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part II A poll says that a majority of the public can’t name a single member of the Supreme Court, despite a large majority believing that the Court’s decisions greatly affect their daily lives. Worse, most of the public thinks the Court is a partisan body, like Congress, because most of the public doesn’t know the difference between the Supreme Court and an ice cream cones, and virtually none of the public has read a single Supreme Court opinion all the way though in their entire lives. No wonder  the Democrat fear-mongering about Judge Kavanaugh is regarded as a smart tactic. Ignorant people are the easiest to con. Conned people warp our democracy.

That’s why it is unethical to be ignorant. Continue reading

Sun Day Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/20/2018: Bright Above, Dark Below…

What IS that thing???

Good Morning!

There is this big, white-yellow, ball-thing in the sky overhead..not sure what it is.

The sky is also this weird bluish color.

Very strange…

1. The news media actually calls this creep a moral authority...which itself is significant. On his late-night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel said, “President Trump said he is with the people of Santa Fe in this tragic hour and will be with them forever—except for when it comes time to do something. Then he will not be with them.”

Trump’s post shooting statement was standard issue President-after-tragedy stuff, neither unusual nor objectionable to anyone not seeking to manufacture offense.  “We grieve for the terrible loss of life, and send our support and love to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack,” Trump said. “To the students, families, teachers, and personnel at Santa Fe High: We’re with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever. My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others. Everyone must work together, at every level of government, to keep our children safe.”

Kimmel :“They care more about the support of the NRA than they do about children.”

Kimmel’s statement is signature significance for an ignorant, unscrupulous asshole, and one who either has never read the Constitution, or doesn’t care what it says. There is absolutely nothing that the President of The United States, (or “they”) could or can do to prevent school shootings like the one in Santa Fe.

2. Who wants to join me in a sit-in at Starbucks? It will have to be a lily-white sit-in to make the point. Starbucks’ desperate, pandering, virtue-signaling, deranged new policy that allows anyone to sit in its stores or use its restrooms, even if they don’t buy anything, immediately guarantees the Tragedy of the Commons, which the silly, social justice warrior-run company apparently felt was a preferable disaster than to be accused of racism for enforcing a reasonable and necessary rule when blacks were the violators. If all the tables and space are taken up by non-customers, loiterers and free-riders, Starbucks can’t do any business, but it is literally saying, “We don’t care!” Why? Well, even if they ordered white freeloaders to leave, every time the freeloader was black, Hispanic, gay or in a wheelchair, a YouTube video would appear, go viral, and Starbucks would be tarred as corporate bigots. The police could try this same strategy: announce that officers will not fire on any individual resisting arrest or threatening an officer’s life. I’m sure that will work out well too.

3.  Yes, this was the quality of the people running the country during the Obama years. Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan argued on Twitter that parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws. He really did. Let’s have a contest: List how many ways this suggestion is unethical. I’ll get you started: it is irredeemably stupid, and thus an abuse of influence, making the naive and easily gulled believe that because this man ran the Education Department, he is a respectable authority whose bone-headed utterances can be trusted and taken seriously. (I see at least five more.) Continue reading

Ethics Observations On That “This Is The Future That Liberals Want” Meme

future_liberal_meme-4x3

Boubah Barry, a Guinean immigrant and real estate student, saw a striking pair  riding on his subway into Manhattan on February 19. He snapped a photo, and posted it to his Instagram page. The post was shared by the Instagram account “subwaycreatures,” and eventually  /pol/ News Network attached it to a tweet this week with the message “This is the future that liberals want” as a warning about the  danger posed by progressive policies. Naturally, progressives saw nothing alarming about the scene, flooded the site with defiant endorsements of diversity, and shot the meme around the Internet with the same message: This is the future that liberals want, and so there! Then the satirists, adsurdists, and apolitical got into the act—thank god—and we had this kind of thing…

 

future-that-liberals-want-twitter-meme-6

and this…

this-is-the-future3

…this… 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

No, Ashleigh, That Isn’t “Libel,” And Why Are You Hosting A CNN Show Called “Legal Affairs” When You Don’t Know That?

Ashleigh-Banfield

In an epic clash of incompetents, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield challenged Michael Cohen, one of Donald Trump‘s advisers over his retweeting an internet meme that said that Hillary Clinton “murdered” the victims of the Benghazi mission assault.

After the House Benghazi Select Committee released its final report on the 2012 terror attacks, Cohen delivered his tweet featuring this…

Cohen tweet

It is about as stupid, lazy and inflammatory as most political memes, and the fact that Cohen would think it worth circulating tells us all we need to know about both him and the man who pays him, who would have probably tweeted this junk himself if Cohen hadn’t. Remember Cohen? He’s the Trump lawyer who crudely threatened the Daily Beast and went on to proclaim that spousal rape was legal, when it isn’t. Cohen is, by definition, a thug, a creep, and a crummy lawyer. Naturally, he’s also a Trump advisor. (Tell me again how Trump, that keen judge of legal talent,  can be trusted to appoint better Supreme Court justices than Clinton would. Or that Honey Boo-Boo would.)

Sparring with Cohen on her show “Legal Views,” Ashleigh Banfield lectured the lawyer and told him, “This is libel.” thus making exactly as accurate a statement of law as Cohen’s earlier one about spousal rape. It was not libel. It was inflammatory political speech in a satirical context (would anyone think Clinton actually said this, as the meme suggests?) about a public figure, clearly an opinion rather than a statement intended to be taken literally, and no more libel than “Bush lied and people died.” Banfield’s diagnosis was 100% wrong, and the fervor with which it was delivered is the calling card of a Clinton defender. Continue reading

Facebook’s Sad, Ignorant, Compassionate, Irresponsible Post-Orlando Freakout

antigun cartoon

If I had the time and wanted to anger about two-thirds of my friends, I could go around Facebook and explain to them why their latest posted anti-gun meme, or latest simple-minded anti-gun cartoon, or furious rant against the NRA, Republicans and “gun nuts,” show them to be ignorant, hysterical, and irresponsible citizens. Maybe I’ll spend a day doing this and see what happens.

The culprits are everywhere, from all backgrounds. These aren’t just my actor friends, who tend to memorize lines with their brains and think with their hearts. It’s many of the lawyers I know too….also journalists, writers, policy-makers—all kinds. As they quote with approval partisan and ignorant anti-gun pundits, actors or elected officials, they also erupt with emotion, counting on a welter of “likes,” “loves” and crying faces from the friends, who uncritically cheer the sentiment without challenging the execrable law and logic. The process repeats over and over, like a rinse cycle, until the original posters are not only convinced that they are right, but that anyone who disagrees is an evil promoter of violence not worthy of human association. I have read, more than once, “If you disagree, keep your opinion to yourself, or I’ll unfriend you.”

I confess, I’ve resisted my natural instinct to take up those dares, because these people are in pain, and, frankly, temporarily deranged. Many of them are gay, an identify personally with the victims. I sympathize with that. They also have a right to their anti-gun opinions, but they are polluting an important debate and making any resolution impossible by being willfully ignorant, and rebelling in it. The lawyers are especially disgracing themselves. Again—it is irresponsible, and it is bad citizenship.

If I were going to be a Facebook vigilante and point out the serious flaws in the various anti-gun rants, my Facebook friends would find more notes like this one, which I left in response to a good friend’s rant against the head of the Gun Owners of America  blaming the Orlando shooting on “Gun Free Zones.”  My friend wrote…

“I’m willing to entertain just about any argument for gun rights, but this one is SHIT. I will not be convinced that on Sunday evening, even a few, trained, people violating the Gun Free Zone in a dimly lit club, with HUNDREDS of panicked, perhaps inebriated, people running in every direction for their lives, could get a “good shot” to take out the man responsible for this atrocity. I believe the result is called more deaths by “friendly fire.”

I responded in part…

The argument is that murderous shooters will be less likely to come to kill when there is a chance that someone will be armed. This is not “shit”…This is the oldest pro-gun/anti-gun divide of all: the criminals and terrorists aren’t the ones who will follow the gun regulations; law abiding citizens are. That should be obvious. I don’t believe for a moment that one can blame the massacre on ” Gun Free Zones.”…but the argument that a shooting occurred because an area wasn’t a Gun Free Zone is even more silly. Is a terrorist going to say, “Ooops! Can’t slaughter gays in that club—it’s a Gun Free Zone!” Of course not. Might a terrorist choose not to attack a venue where he knows that one or more people might be armed, rather than one where he knows the law-abiding victims will be defenseless? Maybe.

Your point of bias, and it’s a common one, is that the presence of a gun makes one unsafe. The presence of a maniac makes one unsafe. If you happen to have a gun, maybe you’re a bit safer. Agree or not, that isn’t “fucking insane.” What I do think is fucking insane is people allowing emotion to eat their brains all over Facebook. It doesn’t help.

It just doesn’t help.  This friend is rational and thoughtful, and I expect him to take my critique in the spirit in which it was offered.  I can’t always count on a reasonable response, however, such as from the friends have posted this meme:

Anti-Gun meme 1

Machine guns and automatic weapons are illegal. The meme goes along with the laments of those who believe that the Orlando shooter used an “assault rifle” or a military weapon in the shooting. When you point out that it was not an “assault weapon,” they just shrug the distinction off as an irrelevant detail, and this is a tell. All guns are indistinguishable to many of my friends. Guns are bad, that’s all. This undercuts the lie—and I am now convinced that it is a lie—that they don’t want to ban guns and repeal the Second Amendment.

Ken White wrote perceptively, as he usually does, on why this approach is both dishonest and counter-productive:

I support the argument that the United States should enact a total ban on civilians owning firearms.

Oh, I don’t support the ban. I support the argument.

I support the argument because it’s honest and specific. It doesn’t hide the ball, it doesn’t refuse to define terms, it doesn’t tell rely on telling people they are paranoid or stupid in their concerns about the scope of the ban. The argument proposes a particular solution and will require the advocate to defend it openly…There’s a very good reason to care about what you mean when you argue that “assault weapons” should be banned: the term is infinitely flexible. If you think it inherently means something specific, you haven’t bothered to inform yourself about the issue. “Assault weapon” means whatever the definers decide it should mean. Banning “assault weapons” is the gun version of banning “hate speech” or “disruptive protest” or “dangerous persons” or “interfering with a police officer” — it’s a blank check. And I don’t like handing out blank checks to the government to ban things and jail people…

A lot of my Facebook friends do, however. Here’s a link approvingly posted by a lawyer friend, saying in part.. Continue reading