“What’s Going On Here?”: The Rasmussen “Production Error”

What the hell?

In 2016 around this time I took Ethics Alarms to the woodshed for using unflattering photos of Hillary Clinton, like these.

It’s a dirty trick, essentially. Photos capture a split second of life and falsify it by freezing it forever. The news media has been using this tactic against Donald Trump with wild abandon, having essentially given up any pretense of fairness and objectivity. However, the Rasmussen graphic above wasn’t a photograph, and it was employed by the supposedly conservative-leaning polling service. Yet it could have been designed by the Democratic National Committee at its most nasty, portraying the President as a snarling, vicious threat, and Joe Biden as a calm and professional statesman.

Rasmussen was quick with a retraction that raised more questions that it answered:

  • Why did Rasmussen have the snarling Trump graphic at all?
  • What kind of “production error” would cause that?
  • If the company is so careless with its tweets, what else is it careless about?
  • Was a “rogue employee” the culprit? Again, this does not speak well for the company’s management, trustworthiness or culture.
  • Any organization that sends out tweets without a vetting and review process is incompetent. Yes, that includes the White House. Especially the White House.
  • Is Rasmussen really blaming the social media criticism of its botch? Or Trump supporters who have seen enough flagrant anti-Trump bias for a lifetime, and who expressed their anger at this example? The company needs to apologize, not blame the victims of its own system breakdown  ineptitude.

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Pointer: Althouse

You Have The Floor In Another Open Forum, With Some Preliminary Opening Observations

I’m going to open up the floor to comments on whatever you want to talk about, ethics-wise. This day looks chaotic for me, beginning with an interment of a dear friend at Arlington National Cemetery. I’ll visit mom and dad while I’m there…

Let me append a footnote. Althouse, who lives in Madison, directs readers to this article: “Two women arrested in beating of state Sen. Tim Carpenter during night of protests in Madison.” I remember the incident and the frightening video. From the article,

Police arrested Samantha R. Hamer, 26, and Kerida E. O’Reilly, 33, on suspicion of being parties to the crimes of substantial battery and robbery with use of force. They were both in custody Monday night, according to online records from the Dane County jail.

He fell to the ground after he was punched and about 10 people hit and kicked him, one witness told police. Stunned, Carpenter told them he was an ally and had long fought for the kinds of policies they were seeking.

Paramedics treated him but he declined to go to the hospital that night. A week later, he said he had surgery in St. Francis for injuries he suffered during the attack.

Observations:

  • I have to believe that sooner or later the cognitive dissonance scale will work its silent magic, to the advantage of Republicans and the detriment of Democrats. These are ugly, scary people who are behind the rioting and statue-toppling, and the classic types that have fueled totalitarian take-overs throughout history (Yesterday was the anniversary of the revolutionaries turning on Robespierre.).

Yet Democratic leaders are fearfully giving them their seals of approval.

  • Not for the first time, I’m wondering if it’s fair to publish mug shots. Professor Turley is addicted to them, but they  encourage people to judge others by their appearances, and publicizing an individual’s appearance at a time when they can’t possibly be at their best seems gratuitously cruel. The photos of the two arrested women…

…prompted lots of mockery among Althouse’s commentariat, most of whom resorted to stereotyping

What the President said, in response to a question about the incident, was, “The person they beat up was a Democrat who happened to be gay and he was probably out there rooting them on or something because Democrats think it’s wonderful they’re destroying our country.”

Typical “fact-check.” This kind of dishonesty has been going on for almost four years, but I’m sure that Washington Post will add it to its “lie list.”  The state senator is gay and is a Democrat. Saying what he was “probably” doing is not a “claim” but an opinion, and based on Carpenter’s own protestation, it’s probably an accurate one. By the basic rules of English, there is no way one can fairly say that the President “falsely claimed” that Carpenter was rooting the statue-topplers on.

That’s enough from me.

“Over to you, Clarence…”

No, Eva Murry’s Icky Story About Joe Biden Doesn’t Make Tara Reade’s Accusation More Credible [UPDATED!]

Cool your jets, conservative media.

Two days ago, Law and Crime, usually a partisan website on the Democratic side, posted the detailed allegation of Eva Murry, a 26-year-old woman who is engaged and has two children. The site treated it as a major scoop (“A woman says she was sexually harassed by presumptive Democratic Party Presidential nominee Joe Biden when she was 14 years old”) and the conservative news media picked up the ball and ran for the metaphorical goal-line. Fox News wrote, “A woman related to a former Republican Senate candidate is accusing former Vice President Joe Biden of sexual harassment…The claim comes as Biden is denying a separate allegation made by former staffer Tara Reade that he sexually assaulted her in 1993.” Further down the food chain—much further— the Trump-boosting blog WS sported the headline, “Report: Another Biden Accuser Comes Forward, Says He Sexually Harassed Her When She Was Only 14-Years-Old,” and began, “Yet another Biden accuser has come forward with a disgusting story of sexual harassment.”

Eva Murry’s account has absolutely no relevance to Tara Reade’s allegations of sexual assault. None. It should not be treated as if it does.

In an earlier post, I listed the three reasons why I am dubious of Reade’s accusation. The first is that she took so long to make her accusation public, a problem she shares with Dr. Blasey Ford and Anita Hill, among others. Second, the accusation looks and feels like a politically-motivated attack, another feature redolent of Hill and Ford. Third, such accusations are always suspect when they are alone.

It’s still alone. Murry’s story is the kind of “this guy is a creep” tale that came from all sides at Donald Trump during the Presidential campaign. We know Biden is a creep, or should; it doesn’t provide any reason to believe he is capable of sexual assault no matter how hard his adversaries try to spin it. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Hymnal, 2/23/2020: Bernie Freakouts, And Other Amusing And Unsettling Ethics Phenomenon

It’s a glorious Sunday in Alexandria!

I hope you have the same good fortune wherever you are…

1. What a fun season the Astros are facing...Yesterday, in their first Spring Training game, the Houston Astros were booed by their own “home” fans in West Palm Beach, Florida. They will have an overhwelming amount of pressure on them this year in addition to being  pariahs in every ballpark in te American League. If they don’t win their division again, or approach the 100+ wins the team has amassed ever season since 2017,  the narrative will be that tis proves that it was the team’s cheating, not its superior talent, that had made them champions. Of course that will be a false conclusion, since there are many factors that could diminish the Astros in 2020, such as the loss of their best pitcher, Gerrit Cole, to free agency.

There were other ethically dubious moves by the Astros yesterday. Although teams are required by an MLB directive to include at least some team regulars in Spring Training games, since spectators are paying substantial amounts to attend, manager Dusty Baker had only minor leaguers in the line-up, apparently wanting to delay and minimize the fan abuse heaped on his team. Thus a line-up of players who had absolutly nothing to do with the sign-stealing that marred the Astros’ 2017 season and World Series victory absorbed the anger of the fans intended for the no-shows.

Meanwhile, ball park personnel confiscated signs brought by some fans to express their disapproval. The signs weren’t obscene or vulgar, just critical, like “Houston” with an asterisk,  implying that the Astros’ 2017 World Series title would be forever blemished by the team’s cheating. That sign is telling the undeniable truth.

Can’t have that.

2. Now here’s an old tradition that does not need to be revived...

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/4/2020: Meltdown In Iowa Edition [CORRECTED]

Good Morning!

As I write this, there are still no final results from the Iowa Caucuses. The cause seems to be some faulty software and generally poor planning by the Iowa Democrats, resulting in chaos. There is a lot of schadenfreude going on at the conservative websites, and it is unseemly. Much as the Democrats deserve to fall on their faces, this is botched democracy in action, and nobody should be gloating about it.  It’s unfair to all of the campaign workers and supporters of the various candidates—even though the supporters of some candidates should hide their heads under a bag—and chaos in the process serves nobody’s interests. What are the odds President Trump sends out a mocking tweet about it this morning?

Here’s Nate Silver explaining what a catastrophe this is for Democrats.

The bon mot turning up in comment sections and social media over and over again last night was “The Democrats can’t handle a caucus, and they want to run the whole country?”

Until the real vote totals are in  it’s all speculation, but it looks like Joe Biden crashed and burned, with his vote totals missing the 15% threshold required to win any delegates.

1. Pete being Pete. Remember what the Ethics Alarms verdict was on Pete Buttigieg a while back? It stands. Mayor Buttigieg declared himself the winner before any useful vote totals were in. Mediaite: “All this dumpster fire of an Iowa caucus was missing was a candidate who declared victory without a single vote being reported. But shortly after midnight eastern on Tuesday morning, Mayor Pete put the cherry on top of this hideous sundae with a confounding speech in which he seemed to proclaim himself the winner.” He has been sharply criticized by just about everybody, and deserves to be. It’s a jerk move.

Meanwhile, the Sanders camp, remembering the underhanded treatment he received from the DNC in 2016, is suggesting that this may all be a plot by the Democratic Dark lords to rob him of a big victory and the proverbial “Iowa Bounce.” I don’t blame them.

2. Stop making me defend Joe Biden! Biden is getting “Ew!’s and “Ick!”s as a result of this photo..

..taken when he gave his 19-year-old granddaughter s peck on the lips during an Iowa rally. Granted, this wouldn’t be an issue if Joe didn’t have a well-deserved reputation for  inappropriate public behavior with women and girls, but this is one of the best examples I have ever seen of how a photograph, contrary to the old saying, can and do lie. The kiss lasted a nanosecond, but the photo makes it look like Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Continue reading

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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/15/2019: Starring Two Of My Favorite Unethical Websites!

WAKE UP!

Oh, great: started this post at 7 am, hell broke lose at ProEthics, and now it’s after noon. Well, the hell with it: I’m not going back to change the headline or the intro, and I like Lenny’s version of the Stars and Stripes at any time of day.

So there.

1. Unprofessional and dangerous stuff from  Above the Law….as usual. The legal gossip and snark online tabloid is run and written by lawyers who are not practicing law, so they feel free to engage in conduct that lawyers are forbidden from engaging in, like misrepresentation.  Lately the cyber rag has been cyber-ragging on Jones Day, a long-time, distinguished D.C. mega firm. Why are they doing that? Come on, it should be obvious.

ATL takes the position—and it has company— that Jones Day is eeeevil and must be shunned because it represents the Trump campaign. Hence you get headlines like “IF YOU HAD TO GUESS WHICH FIRM WOULD DO THIS:New allegations claim Jones Day lightened the skin and narrowed the nose on the picture of one of their lawyers.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Eye-Opener, 7/22/2019: Boycotts, Bushes, And Weenies

Mornin’!

Just trying to think about ethics while I sit calmly by the phone…my doctor wants to tak to me about something. I’m hoping it’s the Red Sox…

1. There is hope: the latest cable ratings show that CNN’s  Brian Stelter’s slot “Reliable Sources” has lost more about 42% of its audience in the last six months. This indicates people must recognize a fake ethicist when they see one. Unlike his predecessor, Howard Kurtz (who had his own problems), Stelter refuses to focus any media criticism on his own network, which is one of the prime journalism ethics offenders extant, and his obsession with Fox News is nearly Media Matters-like. In short, he’s a biased, partisan hack, highlighted by his risible claim that the news media (and sainted CNN, of course) covered the Mueller investigation objectively.

The rotting American mainstream news media desperately needs  objective, credible qualified critics. What it does not need is a fake authority like Stelter, and it is encouraging to see that the audience is reacting accordingly.

2. A Party of Assholes. This is nice: Here’s the statement issued by Virginia Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, Senate Democratic Chair Mamie Locke, House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, and House Democratic Chair Charniele Herring regarding the upcoming commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement.

We will not be attending any part of the commemorative session where Donald Trump is in attendance. The current President does not represent the values that we would celebrate at the 400th anniversary of the oldest democratic body in the western world. We offer just three words of advice to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation: ‘Send Him Back.’

There we see the priorities of the great mass of the Democratic Party since the 2016 election, in which marginalizing the elected President and insulting him (and, not incidentally, his office) at every opportunity for illusory political gain has taken precedence over the best interests of the nation.

I also strongly doubt that the President’s recent deliberately provocative tweets changed anything, as Democrats have been boycotting events where he was scheduled to participate for three years, beginning with his inauguration. They would have found some reason to do this, even without the tweets.

In contrast, at least one Virginia Democrat understands her duty. US Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 2nd District, said

I will attend the Jamestown 400th anniversary of the founding of democracy in America because our democracy is not about the President or Congress—as President Lincoln said, “it is a government of the people, by the people, for the people and it shall not perish from this earth.”

I guess they’ll be calling her a racist now…. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Notables. 5/18/2019: More Social Media Partisan Censorship, A-Rod’s Potty And Ian’s Potty Mouth…

Why, I asked, on such a beautiful May day, am I inside writing about ethics? And my wife turned into Hymen Roth…

1. PLEASE stop making me defend Alex Rodriguez, who is one of my least favorite human beings, never mind former athletes, on the planet, and yet…this is a strict Golden Rule issue. The ex-Yankees (also Texas and Seattle) slugger  was photographed sitting on his toilet in his luxury apartment’s bathroom. The shot was apparently taken by a rogue photographer in a high rise office building next to the apartment building where A-Rod shares a  $17.5 million apartment with Jennifer Lopez, whose movies are now beneath those of Adam Sandler and Tom Arnold on my playlist.

Legal precedent in New York suggests than  Rodriquez has no case, because in 2015, an appeals court ruled that a gallery show of images snapped through less famous New Yorkers’ windows by an “artist” was not a privacy violation. (I wrote about that photographer here; perhaps the title gives you a sense of where I came out on my analysis: “Why Photographer Arne Svensen Is An Unethical Creep”]

Fine, I see the legal point. If you don’t want people taking photos of you, then keep your window blinds down. However,just because you can do something crappy to another human being doesn’t make it right.

Even if it’s a crappy human being. Continue reading

Observations On The Bizarre Slavery Photo Lawsuit Against Harvard

It would be nice if this grandstanding lawsuit engineered by professional race-baiting lawyer Benjamin Crump was summarily thrown out of court as the junk it is, but unfortunately, too many judges, when woke sentiment beckons, bend over backwards so far that they can lick their heels.

Here is the gist of it:

Tamara Lanier filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts claiming that she is a direct descendant of Renty and Delia, two slaves who were the subjects of a harsh photo session as part of an anthropological inquiry into the differences between blacks and whites. The images of the father and daughter were commissioned by renowned  Harvard professor Louis Agassiz 170 years ago,  and are now stored in  the ancient Peabody  museum on the Harvard campus. (Full disclosure: I love the place, and spent many afternoons as a kid wandering through the exhibits.)  The lawsuit claims the images are the “spoils of theft,” because as slaves Renty and Delia were unable to give consent to being photographed., and that Harvard is illegally profiting from the images by using them for “advertising and commercial purposes.” By keeping the photos, the lawsuit claims, Harvard has perpetuated the hallmarks of slavery that prevented African-Americans from holding, conveying or inheriting personal property.

Observations:

  • I’m sure—aren’t you?— that Mrs. Laneir came up with this wild Hail Mary lawsuit all by herself. Her lawyer, as I already note, is Benjamin Crump, a legal racial shake-down artist who excels at creating public pressure that forces defendants to pay copious settlement money to his clients who often don’t deserve it. He represented the family of Trayvon Martin, and in so doing poisoned the public narrative so thoroughly that the actual facts of Martin’s death are permanently distorted in the nation’s collective memory. he represented the parents of Michael Brown, ensuring them a big pay-off because their angelic son charged a police officers and got himself shot. Ben Crump helped promote “Hands up! Don’t shoot!,” the lie that is still poisoning race-relations to this day. He’s a mission lawyer, someone who uses the law to pursue an agenda: he is to race relations what Gloria Allred is to feminism. He profits by stirring up discord, whether there’s really an injustice or not.

That doesn’t mean that some of his crusades won’t have merit. I only means that there is just cause for suspicion if he is involved.

  • “It is unprecedented in terms of legal theory and reclaiming property that was wrongfully taken,” Crump says. I guess that’s one way of putting it. It’s unprecedented because no previous lawyer had the gall to try such a stunt, but with Democrats and progressives beating the hollow reparations drum again, he cleverly chose a good time to take a flyer. “I keep thinking, tongue in cheek a little bit, this has been 169 years a slave, and Harvard still won’t free Papa Renty,” said  Crump. Good one, Ben! Except that Renty is long dead, and a photograph isn’t a human being…

Yet give him some credit:  Crump is explaining why this isn’t a technically frivolous law suit. If a litigant and the litigant’s lawyer are arguing for a new legal principle, knowing that under existing law the claim is dead, then the action isn’t frivolous. Horrible and dangerous Crump’s lawsuit is; frivolous it isn’t.

  • Harvard and other universities set themselves up for this by caving to historical airbrushing demands by the students they have helped indoctrinate, such as when Georgetown University established a policy giving an edge  n admissions to descendants of slaves who were sold to fund the school. I would say they have this coming and let them sleep on the bed of nails their laziness and cowardice has made, but therein lies a real danger. Harvard, which of late has been devising and defending one bad progressive idea after another (like discriminating against Asian Americans as Harvard’s own way of helping African Americans get admitted to the college), might just decide to be woke rather than responsible, and let Mrs. Lanier take the photos, thus setting a precedent with endless potential to cause havoc.

I wouldn’t bet against it.

  • Lanier’s (that is, Crump’s) lawsuit is an extension of the Mao/Soviet Union -style historical airbrushing and re-writing tool of social change that  21st Century progressives have adopted as they march inexorably toward beneficent totalitarianism. If we don’t like the laws our ancestors put in place, let’s just declare that  they weren’t laws at all. If applying legal principles that have been in place and effective for hundreds of years doesn’t assist the social change we desire, than suspend those principles. Make the law a subject to “the ends justifies the means” whenever it’s convenient.

I’m sorry to be blunt, but if you don’t comprehend the existential danger inherent in this approach, you’re an idiot.

  • Legal problems? What legal problems? Well, let’s see: 1) Renty’s lack of consent to the photos is irrelevant, because under the laws of the time, he had no right to consent. That may be unfair, and wrong, and cruel, and horrifying, but the way society works is that laws, even bad ones, are valid until they are repealed and replaced. Without that certainty, no law can function, and the rule of law becomes impossible. 2) The theory that Harvard is profiting from slavery because of the value of its photograph of a slave would mean that the owners would be profiting from war crimes because of the value of a photograph like this…

(And no, I don’t think those half-dead Andersonville prisoners were capable of giving meaningful and valid consent to be photographed either.) The lawsuit is designed to open the door to censorship of history and historical records that “offend” anybody. 3) The distant relatives of the subject of a photograph are the real owners of the photograph, not the photographer, and not the individual who commissioned the photograph, even if the original subject  gave legally valid consent to be photographed or received compensation for such a photograph if a court at any time in the future deems that such consent was invalid under current law, or the compensation is similarly deemed inadequate.

Brilliant.

4) If this theory prevails, then wouldn’t Ken Burns, and PBS, and everyone who profited from showing Burns’ “The Civil War” be required to pay damages for “profiting” from the use of slave photos similarly taken without consent? Would that segment of the documentary, which is crucial to Burn;s narrative, have to be excised?

  • Then there’s this little problem: it is virtually impossible to determine with any certainty that “Renty” really is Tamara’s Lanier’s ancestor.

Yet Harvard may capitulate anyway—to signal its virtue, to be able to publicly condemn slavery, to be “woke, ” and mostly to avoid pickets in Harvard Yard. Ben Crump is no fool…a race-hustler, sure, but he’s no fool.