Saturday Ethics Bits and Pieces, 10/24/2020: Sushi And Coyotes

1. Another day, another police shooting where the black victim entirely brought his fate upon himself, resulting in, of course, another protest. This time the episode was in San Bernardino, California. An officer was dispatched at 11:16 p.m. in response a 911 call about a man jumping on cars in a parking lot. He’s “really drunk and he’s waving around a gun…and he’s just going crazy,” the caller told the police dispatcher. She described him as a black man with a white shirt and black shorts.

As soon as police learned he was black, they might as well have replied, “Sorry. He’s your problem.”

Body camera video shows the officer approaching Matthew Bender, who fits the description by the 911 caller. The police officer pulls out his gun and tells Bender, “Let me see your hands.” Bender  raises his hands briefly and then puts them back on his side, walking away from the officer and telling the cop, “Man, I’m going to the store.” The officer holsters his gun away and attempts to apprehend Bender, who tells him, “Don’t touch me!” The police officer wrestles Bender to the ground and tells him, “Stop fighting, dude.” Bender is seen on video reaching for an item in his waistband that appears to be a handgun.  As both men get up from the ground, and the officer draws his weapon and fires four shots at Bender, which proved fatal. A loaded, unregistered pistol was found on the suspect, who had a criminal record going back 17 years, , with arrests attempted murder, false imprisonment, domestic violence, theft and possession of narcotics. Shortly after the incident was reported, demonstrators shouting, “Abolish the police!” “Defund the police!” and “Fuck the police!” took to the streets, blocking  an intersection and attacking vehicles.

The policy the demonstrators in these episodes want is one where the police are defenseless, arrests are impossible, and black skin ensures immunity from law enforcement. This is neither just, fair, nor rational.

2. Give hate a chance. Hate is in, as you know: the Democrats are depending on it, and little else, to bring them victory next month. A website called BestLife developed a formula for determining the “most hated states,”  ranked from least hated to most hated. Who hates a state? I’ve been in 48 of them plus the District, and I like some more than others, but hating a state seems pathological to me. I assume the calculations preceded the George Floyd Freakout, because Washington, Oregon and Minnesota come out far too positively in light of their behavior since June. And why is Oklahoma the fourth most hated state?

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers”

The current effort by a large segment of an entire political party to denigrate the character and motive of police is one of the most bizarre and self-destructive episodes of cultural madness I have ever seen or read about. I place it right below the Dutch tulip mania of the 17th Century. It makes as much sense  as  if a movement developed to eliminate the medical profession as  a reaction to some egregious examples of medical malpractice. The Boston Red Sox, to name an example prominent in my consciousness, used to regularly host special “days” for law enforcement personnel. As recently as 2013, the team honored the Boston police for its  response to the Boston Marathon Bombing. Now a giant banner is plastered across the empty bleachers in Fenway Park extolling “Black Lives Matter,” a direct and calculated attack on the integrity of law enforcement. I keep expecting to read that CBS has cancelled its long running hit drama “Blue Bloods” after the netwrork headquarters at 30 Rock was attacked by a mob. That show, anchored by conservative Tom Selleck, now appears to exist in some kind of weird parallel universe where police officers are respected and trusted.

In his timely Comment of the Day, James Hodgson begins,

It is my intent to comment on prior remarks that have been made concerning police use of force, including the “objective reasonableness” standard, police use of force training, the dangers of police work, the issue of whether a police officer’s life is “worth more” than the life of any other individual, and the speculation that police officers’ use of deadly force is treated less seriously than similar non-police uses of force.

What’s this? Someone who actually knows something about how  the police operate? What a unique and exciting concept!

James Hodgson’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers” continues…

During my career (1974 – 2014) I saw the use of force by police curtailed substantially. First, out of the civil rights era and the Vietnam War protest era, much-needed internal changes in police management and training produced officers better trained and more adept at handling themselves and others with greater skill to avoid the necessity of using force. In 1985, Garner v. Tennessee eliminated the “fleeing felon: rule and restricted the use of deadly force to cases where “”the officer has probable cause to believe that the subject “poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.” Although state law prior to Garner had permitted the use of deadly force to stop a fleeing felon if all other reasonable means of apprehension had failed, in practice very, very few fleeing felons were ever shot, either because agency policy forbade it, or because (in the absence of such policy) officers employed more personal poise and restraint in the execution of their duties.

The standard of objective reasonableness has been problematic since Graham v. Conner first applied this standard to police use of force. (The same standard had previously been applied in other areas of the law, like determining whether an attorney’s assistance of counsel was ineffective.) As courts and juries in excessive force cases began applying the standard, it quickly became evident that in determining whether a particular use of force was objectively reasonable, courts and juries across the country were arriving at widely varying results. So, rather than having a clarifying standard for when use of force was righteous, much ambiguity remained. (The Court itself had noted in Graham that the concept of objective reasonableness “is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application.”)

For the police trainer, this posed a new challenge. Agency administrators, reacting to Graham, began pressing us to provide training to ensure that officers’ use of force would be judged reasonable. Our collective response (mine, along with the training personnel with whom I worked and whom I supervised) was that the real use of force standard had already been set with Garner. The new task for trainers was to better teach not only the thought processes by which an officer determined that a subject “poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury,” but also how to fully and articulately communicate the situational facts and circumstances that precipitated the officer’s decisions and actions. This begins with a thorough understanding of the law concerning assaultive offenses, self defense and use of force. Next requirement is a review of agency policy and procedure regarding use of force. (Agency policy may be and frequently is more restrictive than state law. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers

“While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country, We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country.”

—Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D…naturally) in a statement following an officer involved shooting in Kenosha last night, before any investigation has occurred, knowing that the rioters were already gearing up to cause violence and destruction.

And, of course, violence and destruction is what he got.

Police have not commented on what led to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  He was taken to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee after being shot multiple times, in the back, as he appeared to be entering his car and perhaps reaching for something. (I’m no expert, but doesn’t the fact that more than one cop reflexively started shooting suggest that there was  a reason other than “Oh!Here’s an uarmed black man: let’s shoot him”?)

At this point, the important facts are not known, just irrelevant facts injected into the story to make the police look like villains. Blake was apparently shot in front of his kids. Irrelevant.  It is said that he was trying to break up a fight between two women—he’s a peacemaker!—which is what precipitated the police call. Irrelevant. What is relevant is why the police fired, and what action Blake was engaged in or appeared to be engaged in immediately before the shooting. That is not clear in the video. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/15/2020: Of Cancellations, Retractions, Rants, Lies And Signs

Never mind the small talk; let’s get to it.

1. Hmmm…What’s going on here?  New York officials originally decided to cancel  “‘Tribute in Light,” the  twin beams that shine over lower Manhattan as part of the annual  9/11 commemoration. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which oversees the installation, said in a statement this week,”This incredibly difficult decision was reached in consultation with our partners after concluding the health risks during the pandemic were far too great for the large crew required to produce the annual ‘Tribute in Light.'”

The announcement caused widespread puzzlement. How large could the necessary crew have to be? Geraldo Rivera opined on Fox News that the decision was political, as Democrats sought to “make everybody miserable” so President Trump could be blamed. That theory was quickly picked up by others, along with complaints from New Yorkers that the popular memorial celebration was cancelled for no good reason.

Then, today, New York officials made a U-turn. “Honoring our 9/11 heroes is a cherished tradition. The twin towers of light signify hope, resiliency, promise and are a visual representation of #NewYorkTough,” Cuomo said. “The virus has taken so much and so many. But now the tribute will continue.”

2. Now THIS is Trump Derangement! When did it become considered acceptable and professional for news anchors and public events show hosts to behave like this?  MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski went on an extended, fanciful, hateful anti-Trump rant on yesterday’s broadcast. Here’s a transcript of a supercut video featuring the bulk of Mika’s meltdown: Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/2020: Stelter Gaslighting, “Neither Rain Nor Snow,” A Good Lawsuit, And Orwellian Marketing [CORRECTED!]

Goooood Morning!

The song is from one of my favorite Broadway cast albums. The show (which I directed in college) is something of a mess, but the songs are terrific. Anthony Newley was a talented songwriter (with writing partner Leslie Bricusse) and a triple threat performer who was just a little bit too intense for some people. Among his best known songs with Bricusse are “The Candyman,” “Feelin’ Good” (from “Greasepaint,”) “Gonna Build A  Mountain” and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” (from “Stop the World, I Want To Get Off.” “On a Wonderful Day” is sung on the album by Cyril Richard, whom older readers will remember as the definitive Captain Hook, menacing Mary Martin in the live TV versions of “Peter Pan.”

1. This is wonderfully hilarious. Brian Stelter strikes again. From his CNN show yesterday:

STELTER: “When you see entire media companies essentially exist to tear down Joe Biden, is there an equivalent of that on the left, tearing down Trump?”

GUEST: “There really isn’t.”

Do any CNN viewers really believe this? How much gaslighting can a CNN talking head get away with?

2. Res Ipsa Loquitur. Running a small business trying to struggle through the lockdown when our main income is from live presentations, my wife and I are finding cash flow tougher than ever. Today we were alerted by the USPS that a large check we have been waiting for was delivered two days ago. (It wasn’t.) A few weeks back, we received what looked like an important letter addressed to someone in Spokane, Washington. Yet I will be encouraging voter suppression if I suggest that mail-in ballots are a disastrous idea.

It’s interesting: the same people who insist that the United States is out of step if it doesn’t emulate “other developed nations” in such matters as government health care and banning capital punishment are oddly silent about the overwhelming hostility to voting by mail in Europe. Paul Bedard points out,

Most developed countries, especially in Europe, ban mail-in voting to fight vast fraud and vote buying that had threatened the integrity of their elections, according to an exhaustive review of voting rules and histories in over 30 major nations. In the European Union, 63% have put a ban on mailing in ballots except for citizens living overseas. Another 22% have imposed a ban even for those overseas. And most of those that allow mail-in ballots require some form of photo ID to get one, according to the report from the Crime Prevention Research Center shared with Secrets. “These countries have learned the hard way about what happens when mail-in ballots aren’t secured. They have also discovered how hard it is to detect vote buying when both those buying and selling the votes have an incentive to hide the exchange,” said author John R. Lott, the center’s president.

Meanwhile, we don’t have to rely on Europe’s example to figure out this is a terrible and dangerous idea. From NBC:

More than 1 in 5 mail-in ballots were rejected in New York City during the state primary June 23, the city’s certified election results revealed this week. City election officials rejected 84,000 ballots — 21 percent of all those received by election officials. More than 403,000 ballots were returned to election officials, according to city data, but only about 319,000 absentee ballots were counted, the certified results showed… The U.S. Postal Service, unused to the deluge of prepaid mailers, reportedly left postmarks off ballots, leaving thousands of them to be rejected because it was unclear they were sent on time.

If I were conspiracy-minded, I’d suspect that Democrats want chaos in the November election–all the better to reject the results and take to the streets. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/30/2020: Fact Checks, Fear-Mongering, The Emmys, And Another Cancellation” (Item #2)

The game-playing and misrepresentations regarding police shooting data, particularly by the news media, are driving me bonkers, as I assume, yu as well.

Addressing the issue  is Chris Marschner’s in his Comment of the Day on the post, “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/30/2020: Fact Checks, Fear-Mongering, The Emmys, And Another Cancellation”:

What the researchers using Baysian models fail to control for – or at least fail to show how they controlled for it – is the behavior of the individual shot prior to the being killed. If unarmed whites, according to Critical Race Theory as shown in several documents presented earlier, are assumed to acquiesce to persons of authority while Black arrestees are more likely to resist such authority it stands to reason that opportunities for police involved shootings among blacks will rise.

There is a reason that marketers who rely on statistical probabilities to assess likelihood of consumer behaviors evaluate consumer groups by age, race, gender and other demographic factors. They place different values on things that affect their decisions. I can say that blacks disproportionately purchase more rap recordings than whites. Comparisons of third party interactions with different demographic groups must control for how each group views and reacts to the third party (police).

The very same statistics will show that young blacks and whites are shot far more often than people of their own race that are more than twenty years older than they. Furthermore, just how many females of any race are shot by police in any given year? Maybe the focus should be not black lives but male lives.

Statistics are nothing more than a means to try to understand relationships and perhaps provide some predictive value. Unless you hold constant the variable of participants precipitation behavior constant none of this has significant value. In this research their specious accuracy of the data is quite telling given that they pretend that all persons behave identically in the same situations and all situations are identical.

I am no statistician but I worked with inmates at the three prisons in Hagerstown for five years so I have some understanding to what younger black males respond positively and negatively. What is interesting is that part of the BLM movement’s platform is to destroy the nuclear family construct. That has been going on for years with government policy. Young black, and white, males respond positively to people that give them an opportunity to open up and vent a bit without having to worry about what others will say. Even those with the perpetual chip on their shoulder appreciate the opportunity to not have to carry the weight of projecting the persona of being a bad ass among his peers.

Most of these young males white and black have never been held to account for themselves. They have grown up in matriarchal homes as a result of social service policies and that momma has found that multiple men can augment the family income better than one. Within these homes these kids are resource drains. They grow up learning that being a man is about siring children and demonstrating a distorted view of masculinity. The foregoing is information that was shared by inmates in casual conversations I would “arrange” so it did not appear to be an official interview to which they had to be on guard..

The following is my assessment of what I learned from them and is only my conjecture. Continue reading

Confirmation Bias And A Societal “Big Lie,” Brought To You By Harvard And The New Yorker

She looks so smart and sure of herself! Surely we can trust what SHE writes…

The anti-police propaganda spreading the lie that most police are racist and brutal and therefore a greater threat to society than a benefit has become like the nine-headed Hydra of Greek mythology: nearly impossible to kill. Prime among the villains in this development are the news media, which has enthusiastically spread misinformation while refusing to do its job of clarifying facts rather than distorting them, and researchers and academics, who have become so cowed by the abusive hyper-ideological environment in which they work that they won’t even stand behind their own studies. As discussed here, after a peer-reviewed study showing  that the race of the officer or the civilian could not predict  fatal police shootings was used by defenders of police and critics of Black Lives Matte, the researchers were pressured into retracting their paper because it was being, they said, misused.

I know I’m sounding uncharacteristically frustrated this weekend, but I really don’t know how society fights deliberate disinformation in support of a destructive narrative when both the journalism sector and the academic establishment are in on the fix.

Here is a representative example from The New Yorker. The current edition includes a 5,000 word essay by Jill Lepore, who should be trustworthy: she is  a professor of American history at Harvard as well as frequent writer at The New Yorker and for other presumably legitimate publications.  Her topic is the history of policing in the United States, linking the early role of police in suppressing slave rebellions to police killings of blacks today. At one point she writes,

One study suggests that two-thirds of Americans between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four who were treated in emergency rooms suffered from injuries inflicted by police and security guards, about as many people as the number of pedestrians injured by motor vehicles.

Wait…what? Continue reading

Facts Don’t Matter: Academic Research Undergoes The Ultimate Integrity Meltdown

Heather MacDonald, whose Congressional testimony Ethics Alarms noted here, writes in the Wall Street Journal,

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is a peer-reviewed journal that claims to publish “only the highest quality scientific research.” Now, the authors of a 2019 PNAS article are disowning their research simply because I cited it.

Psychologists Joseph Cesario of Michigan State and David Johnson of the University of Maryland analyzed 917 fatal police shootings of civilians from 2015 to test whether the race of the officer or the civilian predicted fatal police shootings. Neither did. Once “race specific rates of violent crime” are taken into account, the authors found, there are no disparities among those fatally shot by the police. These findings accord with decades of research showing that civilian behavior is the greatest influence on police behavior.

In September 2019, I cited the article’s finding in congressional testimony. I also referred to it in a City Journal article, in which I noted that two Princeton political scientists, Dean Knox and Jonathan Mummolo, had challenged the study design. Messrs. Cesario and Johnson stood by their findings. Even under the study design proposed by Messrs. Knox and Mummolo, they wrote, there is again “no significant evidence of anti-black disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by the police.”

My June 3 Journal op-ed quoted the PNAS article’s conclusion verbatim. It set off a firestorm at Michigan State. The university’s Graduate Employees Union pressured the MSU press office to apologize for the “harm it caused” by mentioning my article in a newsletter. The union targeted physicist Steve Hsu, who had approved funding for Mr. Cesario’s research. MSU sacked Mr. Hsu from his administrative position. PNAS editorialized that Messrs. Cesario and Johnson had “poorly framed” their article—the one that got through the journal’s three levels of editorial and peer review.

Mr. Cesario told this page that Mr. Hsu’s dismissal could narrow the “kinds of topics people can talk about, or what kinds of conclusions people can come to.” Now he and Mr. Johnson have themselves jeopardized the possibility of politically neutral scholarship. On Monday they retracted their paper. They say they stand behind its conclusion and statistical approach but complain about its “misuse,” specifically mentioning my op-eds.

The authors don’t say how I misused their work.

In a move redolent of Soviet-style retroactive censorship, Michigan State University deleted its press release promoting the study, which had said in part, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/22/2020: Let’s Stop Moping Around! Get Up! Get Out! Attack The Day! [Now With Leonard Bernstein!]

 

Update: I decided we needed a less pokey version, so now we have Leonard Bernstein’s, and the whole thing. THAT should cheer you up…

Boy, am I sick of everyone telling me how depressed they are.

1. Translation: “I’m an idiot.”  Now Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is saying  that the city will close the so-called “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” It turned out to be exactly what anyone with any sense predicted it would be, with three shootings so far and a rape, along with a leader ( war lord?) who had the gall to complain when the Seattle EMTs didn’t immediately respond when shots rang out. The mayor  had said that the anarchist outpost would lead to a “summer of love,” marking her as a Sixties-romanticizing dolt, but now she says she was obviously joking-–yes, the Joke Excuse. She never said it was “in jest” before the completely predictable violence broke out.

I apologize for not highlighting her as an Incompetent Elected Official of the Month, but she was competing with Bill De Blasio.

2. Fearmongering. It should be apparent by now that the news media does not want the country to re-open, does not want the economy to begin recovering before the election, and is pushing its anti-reopening goal through fearmongering, in part by focusing on isolated cases of individuals getting hit by the Wuhan virus particularly hard.

This morning HLN kept repeating a long feature about a thirtyish Broadway star who has been disabled by the virus for 80 days, and another man not in a high-risk group who has been suffering for 100 days. The Times and the Washington Post are full of apocalyptic reports about the number of cases rising. Another news outlet said, “The U.S. reported more than 33,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday – the highest total since May 1 – while the surge of infections in several states is outpacing growth in coronavirus testing.”  ARRRGH! We;re DOOOMED!

One commentator called this “needless” frightening the public. Wrong. It is  needed because it is a part of the ongoing effort to defeat President Trump.

The Centers for Disease Control predicted that cases would increase as the country reopened, not that it has much credibility at this point. Remember? The lock down was never intended to stop the spread of the disease, but to slow it down,  flatten the curve, stock up on supplies, fix the CDC’s testing botch, and find treatments. That was mostly accomplished. The nation cannot continue to let the economy deteriorate: depressions kill people too.

Meanwhile, the death rate is declining even as the number of cases spike, and there’s a reason for that. In all outbreaks, a disease claims the most vulnerable first. This is known as Farr’s Law, named after William Farr,  a British epidemiologist and early statistician  who recognized the importance of death statistics and identifying causation. Not only has the current epidemic claimed many of the most vulnerable in the U.S., thanks in great part to the catastrophic decision of states like New York to send infected seniors to nursing homes, millions of Americans have antibodies.

The combination means that even if there are lots of new cases going forward, the death toll is likely to be far less severe than it has been. Do not hold your breath waiting for the media to explain this.

Just for fun,  check and see how many news organizations have mentioned Farr’s Law. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/15/2020: Cancellations!

Good Morning…

1. Facts don’t matter...On HLN today,  CNN’s police expert James Gagliano explained to smiley-face host Robin Meade why his experience tells him that the police shooting at the Atlanta Wendy’s was justified. (His reasoning turns up in printed form here.) Her response? “This is going to be an unpopular opinion!”

Uh-oh. Can’t have that!

2. Cancelled! From The Future of Capitalism website, here is an updated list of the people who have been fired or otherwise “cancelled” in the wake of the George Floyd Freakout:

  • As we have discussed,the editor of the editorial page of the New York Times, James Bennet.
  • The founder and CEO of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, for referring to the Freakout as the Floyd19 virus.
  • The president of the Poetry Foundation, Henry Bienen, and its board chairman, Willard Bunn III, for issuing a public statement that was deemed  “vague and lacking any commitment to concrete action.”
  • The editor-in-chief of the food magazine Bon Appetit, Adam Rapoport, after photo surfaced of him in 2004 “dressed in a racially insensitive costume.” You know, like the woke Governor of Virginia and the Prime Minister of Canada.
  • The head of video at Conde Nast, Matt Duckor, who critics said presided over a racially biased compensation system.
  • The top editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Stan Wischnowski, because he approved of a headline that read “Buildings Matter, Too.” (They do, but never mind…)
  • The editor of the website Refinery29, Christene Barberich, after black employees complained about the work environment.
  • David Shor, a political data analyst, was fired for having tweeted out a summary of a paper by a Princeton sociology professor.
  • Audrey Gelman, CEO and co-founder of the Wing, a co-working community for women, for requiring diversity and antibias trainings that were deemed inadequate.
  • University of Chicago professor of economics Harold Uhlig was placed on leave from his role as editor of the Journal of Political Economy following “accusations of discriminatory conduct in a classroom setting.” Uhlig also had his contract with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago canceled after a Fed spokeswoman said the bank determined “that his views are not compatible with the Chicago Fed’s values and our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
  • St. John’s University assistant fencing coach Boris Vaksman was fired “after making derogatory remarks about black people in a private lesson” according to “what appears to be an edited video,” the New York Times reported.
  • Stephen A. Huffman was dismissed by TeamHealth from his job as an emergency room doctor in Ohio after publicly speculating about why blacks have been hit particularly hard by Covid-19.
  • The CEO of Crisis Text Line, Nancy Lublin, was “ousted by the nonprofit’s board of directors on Friday, in response to allegations of racism and mistreating staff,” Axios reported.  The board also said that “at least two members of the board will be replaced with black, indigenous, or persons of color candidates” and “Anti-racist trainings for board members will begin in July.”
  • Canadian television personality, Jessica Mulroney’s  show, “I Do, Redo,” was canceled by its Canadian network after a blogger accused her of exhibiting “white privilege,” the New York Post reported.
  • Barbara Fedida, an ABC News executive, was placed on “administrative leave” after what a HuffPost article based on unnamed sources described as “a long pattern of insensitive statements, including racist comments.”

I’m glad I run my own company. Continue reading