Tag Archives: Scott Adams

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/11/2018: Baseball, Bannon, and Chaos

Good Morning!

1 Great. Now I have to defend Steve Bannon. What greeted me this morning, as I surfed the Sunday news shows, Diogenes-like, searching for an honest journalist, but the sight of Steve Bannon in France, addressing the far-right National Front party yesterday and saying, speaking of the party’s effort to stem unrestrained immigration, particularly from Muslim countries,  “Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor.” On every channel, this was interpreted as if Bannon was endorsing racism, xenophobia and nativism. Naturally this was then reflected on Trump as part of the “Trump is a racist” Big Lie that Democrats and the news media push virtually every day.

Bannon has certainly made testaments at other times that raise a rebuttable presumption that he is a racist, but this wasn’t one of them, and the fact that so many journalists would intentionally represent the statement to the public as if it was tells us either that they can’t be trusted to analyze news events, or that they can be trusted to spin them to advance an anti-Trump narrative even when it defies language and reality. From NBC in a typical fake history description: “Bannon’s appearance in France was part of a European tour as he seeks an international platform for his closed-borders, anti-foreigner message that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency.”  Trump did not advocate “closed borders,” nor was his platform “anti-foriegner.” That was the dishonest characterization of “America should enforce its immigration laws” by Democrats and the allied news media.

The words Bannon referenced have been part of the ongoing efforts to silence and demonize legitimate positions that oppose progressive cant, such as condemning rather than welcoming illegal immigration. What  Bannon was obviously saying —and I do mean obviously—is “Don’t let their reflex race-baiting and demonizing tactics discourage you or deter you. Calling sensible immigration laws “xenophobic” is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie. Recognize that their tactics mean you are winning the argument. Be proud, not intimidated.”

The fact that many of those he was addressing may be racists, xenophobes and nativists doesn’t change the meaning of what Bannon said. The news media’s job is to report, not read minds.

I could imagine making the same kind of statement to a colleague who has been savaged as a racist on Facebook for opposing affirmative action, or attacked as a sexist for questioning #MeToo tactics, or called a “Trump apologist” (or a Bannon apologist) for demanding fair and honest treatment from the media for politicians regardless of who they are. “Be proud that they are stooping to name-calling. It means they can’t rebut you on the merits.”

Oh: Bannon also said, “History is on our side.” This really upset the “journalists,” because everyone knows that history is on their side. Continue reading

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Confirmation Bias And The Taiwan Phone Call

old-lady-poker

I have told the story here before, I think, of the poker hand I once witnessed in Las Vegas that forever serves as a warning about the dangers of confirmation bias. I was considering joining a seven card stud table at a casino, and as is my practice, decided to watch a few hands to see what the competition was like. One player stood out: an elderly, grandmotherly woman who played hesitantly and was prone to say things like “Oh, dear!” and talk to herself. She obviously irritated the  other players, who were all male and the human equivalents of the Dogs Playing Poker.

As it happened the  third hands I watched was a big one, with most of the players showing pairs and flushes. The grandmother dithered and sighed as usual, and when it she was faced, after the last card, with the decision of whether to call a huge bet, she delayed, pushed all her chips into the center to raise, and then pulled them back, saying that she would fold instead. The players protested, and the dealer informed her that once her chips had crossed the line on the table, her bet was complete. She looked horrified, and explained piteously that she had never played by those rules before. It was to no avail, however, and the remaining players eagerly called her wager, happy to take advantage of her gaffe.

The old woman had four jacks! It wasn’t a gaffe, it was an act, all of it. She had been taking advantage of the other players’ eagerness to stereotype her. Once the betting was over, she dropped the mask. “Four of a kind, gentlemen!’ she said authoritatively, revealing her hand. She raked in the gigantic pile of chips, and got up from her chair. “Thanks for the competition. I think I’ll try another table now.” She was heading to a table where they would think she was a clueless old lady, having blown her cover at this one.

I thought about that poker player when I was reading the comments on social media and from various pundits after it was reported that Donald Trump had engaged in a telephone conversation with the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Ever since the U.S. officially recognized Red China, Taiwan, formerly Formosa, has been treated diplomatically as if it doesn’t exist. Taiwan, the Chinese island territory where Chinese Nationalists fled after Communists  took over the country, still claims to be the real government of the Chinese mainland.  Under President Jimmy Carter’s “One China” policy, the U.S. officially refuses to recognize it as independent. It is, however, a convenient fiction.  As Slate explained in 2000:

While the U.S. officially adheres to the one-China policy, it practices a de facto two-China policy. Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. sells Taiwan military weapons, and the language of the act warns the People’s Republic that any coercive unification efforts would be “of grave concern to the United States.”Beginning in the late 1980s, the two Chinas flouted their one-China policies by establishing economic and cultural but not political ties….Taiwan… has continued to pay lip service to independence–two Chinas–but, out of fear of provoking China, has refrained from explicitly repudiating the one-China policy.

An incoming President publicly treating Taiwan’s leader as a head of state is bound to make China nervous. Sine everyone has already concluded that Donald Trump is an impulsive, reckless idiot, the phone conversation was immediately interpreted by his critics in that context. Similarly on social media: every Angry Left poster who mentioned the incident was contemptuous, as if any of them had superior diplomatic expertise to Trump, who is not exactly unfamiliar with the Chinese, with whom he has had many business dealings. Many were also fearful. This is the apparently agreed-upon strategy of  de-legitimizing Trump: he’s scary. He’s not a real American President ( just as many Republicans claimed Obama was an alien), with American virtues and values. He’s a bull in a china shop! (China, get it?) A beast, not a statesman! He’s Hitler, a criminal, a dictator, the boogeyman. See? See? This is going to start World War III!

This interpretation of Trump’s actions is pure confirmation bias. If a President-Elect with respected foreign policy credentials (not that we’ve had one since in 50 years) had done exactly the same thing, exactly the same way, it would be debated, but many more would see it as wily diplomacy. Again, confirmation bias: nobody really knows what the idea behind the call was, or if there was an idea. The Democratic National Committee responded by saying, “Donald Trump is either too incompetent to understand that his foolish phone call threatens our national security, or he’s doing it deliberately because he reportedly wants to build hotels in Taiwan to pad his own pockets.” Wow…THAT’s fair! Stay classy, Democrats! I’m sure this is the way to win back the trust and support of the electorate. Talk about a parody of partisan rhetoric;  tell us again about how the mean old Republicans wouldn’t give Barack Obama a chance.

Continue reading

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Donald Trump Is Bouncing Back In The Polls….Why?

trumpstar

Ann Althouse writes in horror that the Bloomberg poll, a poll that polling guru Nate Silver marks as one of the best, has Donald Trump making up most of what was a 9 point lead just a week ago. “How is it possible?” she asks?

Here is how it’s possible. Americans deeply, deeply resent the tactics and unethical methods of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, as well as, and even especially, the biased news media that has, it was just reported, been 91% negative regarding Donald Trump. Althouse anticipated this backlash back in September, when she quoted journalist/author Robert Wright, who said he was concerned that the media would be so “ham-handed” in its pro-Clinton/anti-Trump bias that “it wouldn’t work.”

In the competition of who is more unfit to lead, Trump wins in a landslide. However, Clinton’s supporters, staff, minions and party have earned the “Most Unethical, Undemocratic, Totalitarian” prize, by at least as large a margin:

1. On CNN’s “State of the Union” last week,  Jake Tapper grilled Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, about Robert Creamer and Scott Foval, the  Democratic operatives who were caught in a Project Veritas video sting talking about instigating violence at a Trump rally.

TAPPER: Have you looked into whether or not Democratic operatives paid by the Democratic National Committee were actually instigating these horrific actions, these violent actions we saw at Trump rallies? That’s — I’m sure you would agree, if that’s true, that’s really offensive.

MOOK: Well, violence is unacceptable. These individuals no longer have a relationship with the DNC. They have never had a relationship with the Clinton campaign. And my understanding is that the events that are referenced happened, I think, in February of last year. They didn’t have a contract with the DNC until June.  But, putting that all aside, this was, again, a video that was leaked out for the purpose of damaging the campaign. It’s edited, so we don’t know what the full context is. And there is — there’s no evidence whatsoever that we have been able to find that anyone ever did anything like this when they were working for the DNC.

Wait, what? Mook just admitted that the DNC hired these Nixonian thugs after they disrupted the Trump events. Before that, they were doing this stuff for free? They were only fired after the video was released.  How does the fact that they aren’t under contract any more serve as a defense of their activities? White House logs show Creamer visiting the White House hundreds of times.  Why?

Mook’s “They have never had a relationship with the Clinton campaign” is such a weaselly line. How about an unequivocal denial that the campaign knew about or coordinated with these cheats? Where is that? Then he defaults to attacking the methods by which these operatives were exposed, just as Clinton’s mouthpeices, like Donna Brazile, have tried to blame Wikileaks for what the Wikileaks leaks show.

Do Democrats just shrug off this kind of anti-Democratic activity as standard “by any means necessary” tactics? What kind of leader obtains power this way? I guarantee that independents, conservatives and uncommitted voters are frightened and disgusted by it. If voting for Trump is the only way to register that disgust, then he’ll be the beneficiary of the backlash.

2. Yesterday “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams, who is a Trump supporters, posted this:

I’ve been trying to figure out what common trait binds Clinton supporters together. As far as I can tell, the most unifying characteristic is a willingness to bully in all its forms.

If you have a Trump sign in your lawn, they will steal it.

If you have a Trump bumper sticker, they will deface your car.

if you speak of Trump at work you could get fired.

On social media, almost every message I get from a Clinton supporter is a bullying type of message. They insult. They try to shame. They label. And obviously they threaten my livelihood.

We know from Project Veritas that Clinton supporters tried to incite violence at Trump rallies. The media downplays it.

We also know Clinton’s side hired paid trolls to bully online. You don’t hear much about that.

Yesterday, by no coincidence, Huffington Post, Salon, and Daily Kos all published similar-sounding hit pieces on me, presumably to lower my influence. (That reason, plus jealousy, are the only reasons writers write about other writers.)

Joe Biden said he wanted to take Trump behind the bleachers and beat him up. No one on Clinton’s side disavowed that call to violence because, I assume, they consider it justified hyperbole. 

Team Clinton has succeeded in perpetuating one of the greatest evils I have seen in my lifetime. Her side has branded Trump supporters (40%+ of voters) as Nazis, sexists, homophobes, racists, and a few other fighting words. Their argument is built on confirmation bias and persuasion. But facts don’t matter because facts never matter in politics. What matters is that Clinton’s framing of Trump provides moral cover for any bullying behavior online or in person. No one can be a bad person for opposing Hitler, right?

I admit to having no respect for Trump supporters (as opposed to Never Hillary Trump voters), just as I have no respect for the tactics Adams describes. He exaggerates in the last section, but otherwise, he is accurate. Never before has a political party and its followers, aided by the news media, tried to “otherize” a major party candidate, and to make it dangerous in schools and workplaces to express support of a candidate. That’s not democracy. Continue reading

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Res Ipsa Loquitur Ethics Quote Of The Day: Law Professor/Blogger/Irony Master Ann Althouse

free-bingo-design

The NYT article tells us that Sotomayor’s remarks were published in the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal and that she also said:

“Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences,” she said, for jurists who are women and nonwhite, “our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”…

… Judge Sotomayor questioned whether achieving impartiality “is possible in all, or even, in most, cases.” She added, “And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society.” She also approvingly quoted several law professors who said that “to judge is an exercise of power” and that “there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see,” she said.

So has Donald Trump refrained from doing a disservice both to the law and society?

—-Ann Althouse, making a slam-dunk point about the hypocrisy of the uproar over Donald Trump’s “racist”suggestion that a Hispanic-American judge might be biased against him.

Althouse and I are right, and almost everyone else is wrong. It’s obvious, and beyond rebuttal on the facts. Althouse has joined me as one who also deplores everything about Donald Trump but who is determined to call out intellectual dishonesty and unfairness in the attacks against him. She also posted this… Continue reading

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