Fixing Elizabeth Warren’s Voice

In a post yesterday about the Democratic candidate’s debate this week, I wrote, as a coda to the usual observations about Elizabeth Warren (that she’s a demagogue, that she’s a relentless populist panderer, that she advocates things in public that as a law school professor she knows are impossible or unconstitutional…that sort of thing),

Maybe its just me, but she talks through her nose, and has one of the most annoying voices in the history of politics. Do you think that doesn’t matter? It matters. It’s also fixable.”

I’m a professional stage director (at least when someone’s willing to pay me to direct a play, anyway), and fixing bad speech habits is part of the job. Most of the time, it is just a matter of making an individual listen to themselves. I could fix Elizabeth Warren in a few hours.

Commenter Jeff, however, raises an interesting point, as he writes,

I think the window on “fixable” might have closed. If Warren took voice lessons and learned to speak with a more pleasing voice, wouldn’t it feed the perception that she’s phony? She’s already got an authenticity problem, and if her voice suddenly became non-annoying, it would be quite noticeable. Had she done it before getting all the press coverage of the primary race, it might have gone unremarked, but I think it’s too late now, especially as she takes the front-runner spot (and its attendant scrutiny from the other candidates) away from Biden.

Can you imagine the hay Trump would make with that? Sample tweet:

“Liz Warren, the Fake Indian, is such a phony she doesn’t even talk with her Normal voice anymore! So sad!”

Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: The Sunlight Foundation

We will honor Twitter’s latest decision, but it stands at odds with a fundamental understanding of our democracy. A member of Congress does not and should not have the same expectation of privacy as a private citizen. Power can only be accountable with a generous application of transparency.

—The Sunlight Foundation, announcing the demise of its service Politwoops, a site that tracked and preserved tweets deleted by hundreds of politicians.

Maybe a better logo would have helped...

Maybe a better logo would have helped…

Twitter, without explanation, changed its stance on Politwoops, which allowed the public to see tweets that politicians, upon reflection, decided that they didn’t want the news media, constituents or opponents to see.

Says the Sunlight Foundation:

What our elected officials say is a matter of public record, and Twitter is an increasingly important part of how our elected officials communicate with the public. This kind of dialogue between we the people and those who represent us is an important part of any democratic system. And even in the case of deleted tweets, it’s also a public part — these tweets are live and viewable by anyone on and other platforms for at least some amount of time….Politwoops was created because public communications from public officials should be available to anyone who wants to see them. The site isn’t just about blunders, but rather revealing a more intimate perspective on our politicians and how they communicate with their constituents. It has created a unique lens to reveal how the messages from elected officials can change without notice or explanation — because Politwoops did not allow for such reversal of messaging to quietly be swept under the rug.

But Twitter is a private business, and can make whatever policies it wants.

I wonder who got to them…

Comment of the Day: “From ‘Psychology Today’: How To Be A Better Liar—And A Negligent Endorsement Of Deceit”

Every adult a lawyer: the politician's worst nightmare!

Every adult a lawyer: the politician’s worst nightmare!

The second Comment of the Day comes from Australia, as zoebrain flags an excellent example of deceit at work, in her comment to my post about the dangerous tendency to regard deceits as less unethical than straightforward lying, and yes, that’s quite an oxymoron.

One of the many points of contention between me and the lawscam crowd is that many of the aggrieved out-of-work and under-employed lawyers only obtained their law degrees as a means to achieve what they believed were guaranteed riches, and thus feel cheated that the current economic mess has shown that to be a false assumption. I, in contrast, assert that a law degree pays for itself over a lifetime regardless of whether or not it leads to well-compensated employment as a lawyer, and one of the reasons is that legal training inoculates you against the deceit of others. If nothing else, law students learn to pay attention to what words really mean, making it much harder for masters of deceit to fool them with carefully chosen weasel words. A nation of citizens trained in the law would not so easily fall victim to the deceit of politicians, those who peddle bad loans and investments, weight loss scams (“results not typical!”) and the predations of other con-artists….including, sadly, other lawyers.

Here is zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the weekend’s post, “From ‘Psychology Today’: How To Be A Better Liar—And A Negligent Endorsement Of Deceit”:

“Here’s an example for you: testimony in an Australian Senate inquiry on same-sex marriage”:

Senator Pratt: But what if someone is of indeterminate gender? I am unclear whether they should have the right, according to the way you would argue it, to be part of such a union.

Mr Meney : People suffering from Turner syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome and things of that ilk are typically infertile or regarded as being mentally handicapped in some way. Many things about marriage require people to have the capacity to consent to what marriage is all about, so a significant mental incapacity might be something that might mitigate against a person being able to consent to a contract of marriage. But that is true of any marriage.

Every word true, as befits testimony from the Director of the Life, Marriage & Family Centre, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

“Although they are not mentally retarded, most XXY males have some degree of language impairment. As children, they often learn to speak much later than do other children and may have difficulty learning to read and write.”

——Understanding Klinefelter Syndrome — National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

“Mental retardation is not a feature of Turner syndrome, despite such claims in older medical textbooks. Thorough psychological studies show that these women are normal intellectually, but often have a characteristic pattern of intellectual functioning. While their verbal 10 usually is average or above, their non-verbal IQ may be considerably lower because of problems visualizing objects in relation to each other. This difficulty may show up in poor performance in math, geometry, and tasks requiring manual dexterity or sense of direction.”

—–Turner Syndrome — Human Growth Foundation.

He didn’t lie: it’s true that “People suffering from Turner syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome and things of that ilk are typically … regarded as being mentally handicapped in some way.” They’re not, of course, as he well knows, but that’s not what he said, is it?

That was his defense when the Organisation Intersex International took him to task for this. He didn’t actually lie. As a good Catholic, he wouldn’t do that – it would be a sin.


Graphic: Financial Post

Comment of the Day: “Dear God: Stop Calling”

The post about political candidates announcing that they have been “called’ by the Lord to run for high office continues to generate provocative, passionate and  perceptive responses, the latest from Glenn Logan,a blogger who covers the University of Kentucky Wildcats for their most discerning fans. Glenn’s comments here—sadly less frequent than they once were—are always thoughtful. Here is his comment on “Dear God: Stop Calling!”, putting to good use his expertise regarding competition of all sorts. I think you’ll agree that it is a most deserving “Comment of the Day”:

“Just because God calls us to do something does not mean that our effort will be successful, even if we do it the best we can. I would hope that most people understand this. Very often, it seems to be the case that the value, or the lesson, is in the journey rather than the outcome. This is pure assumption on my part — God has not seen fit to reveal his works to me, a fact for which I am eternally grateful.

“It is also possible that these worthies mistook their own desires as a call from God. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference, for whatever reason. If we forget, for a moment, that we are talking about politicians and just assume they believe what they say, this could be little more than a misunderstanding on their part.” Continue reading

Saga of an Ethics Train Wreck: Climate Change Science

For those of you with an open mind: Der Spiegel has posted an exhaustively researched and remarkably even-handed explanation of how the clash of policymakers’ time-tables, advocates, researchers and an immensely complex area of science has the climate change issue confused beyond easy repairing. Its saga shows a true ethics train wreck, beginning with scientists compromising their credibility and objectivity by allying themselves with environmental advocates. Opponents of global warming used deceptive tactics to minimize the significance of legitimate research results, the media and politicians hyped results beyond their actual meaning, and then pro-climate change researchers compromised their own integrity by adopting unethical practices of their own. This process has been ongoing, and deteriorating, for almost a decade. Continue reading

NPR Abandons Abortion Issue Spin

It shouldn’t have taken so long for National Public Radio to join many other news organizations in concluding that the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” were deceitful misrepresentations expressly designed to allow advocates to de-emphasize the problems with their positions. Nevertheless, the decision of the organization to stop using the euphemisms was both welcome and correct. After a column on the subject by NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard called for the change, Managing Editor David Sweeney sent out a network-wide memo aimed at ”  He continued:

On the air, we should use “abortion rights supporter(s)/advocate(s)” and “abortion rights opponent(s)” or derivations thereof (for example: “advocates of abortion rights”). It is acceptable to use the phrase “anti-abortion”, but do not use the term “pro-abortion rights”.

Next, the public should insist that advocacy groups and their obsequious political allies follow the same policy. The position of Ethics Alarms, for example, will be that any elected official who uses the deceptive terms “pro-life,” “pro-choice,”  “anti-choice,”  or “anti-life” is either intellectually dim or intentionally attempting to misrepresent the position he or she claims to be supporting.