Fake News! Bad Science! Confirmation Bias! Wuhan Virus Fear-Mongering! The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Narrative Has It All!

I was going to write (another) post about politically weaponized studies and surveys after Nick Kristoff pronounced the U.S a failing nation after seeing the latest Social Progress Index, which determined that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. This is always one of my least favorite type of studies studies, the apples to oranges compendiums where it is the researchers’ values being measured and not what the study claims. Weight the 50 “metrics of well-being”  differently, take out some or add others, and the result is completely different, and just as imaginary. “The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action,” Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told Kristoff. “It’s like we’re a developing country.”

Right. That’s certainly a rational statement.  Kristoff goes on,

The index, inspired by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being — nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more — to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand….The United States, despite its immense wealth, military power and cultural influence, ranks 28th — having slipped from 19th in 2011. The index now puts the United States behind significantly poorer countries, including Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.

I guess the smart thing is to move right over to Finland or Estonia then! I’m sure the rest of the Trump-bashing pundits and America Stinks crowd, like Michael Moore, will have a field day with this propaganda, because it fits in nicely with Big Lie #5: “Everything is Terrible,” which I expect to have a resurgence as we approach election day. Actually it already is; here’s TIME’s cover:

But I digress: lets’s get back to Sturgis. (Thought I had forgotten, didn’t you?) Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Reflections, 6/24/2020: Bombshells Bursting In Air!

Always appropriate, any day, any time…and besides, they tore down the author’s statue. This is his memorial…

1. As for monuments…the Governor of South Dakota,  Kristi Noem, responding to suggestions that Mount Rushmore would soon be on the George Floyd mob’s hit list, said curtly, “Not on my watch.”

It is not so fanciful a notion, since three of the four Presidents on the mountain have had statues toppled, and the fourth, Lincoln, now has his own statue under fire.  The Freedmen’s Memorial Monument to Abraham Lincoln in Boston’s Lincoln Park is targeted by an online petition as is its original, the statue that stands in Washington D.C.’s Lincoln Park. The fact that the statue was commissioned and paid for by freed African-Americans appears to have no importance to the statue-topplers whatsoever.

After all, Facts Don’t Matter.

2. If there is a shark. she will jump it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserted in an interview Tuesday that Republicans are “trying to get away with murder, actually — the murder of George Floyd.” We must remember this when it is determined that the police involved in Floyd’s death can’t get a fair trial because the second highest ranking elected official in the country declared Floyd to be a murder victim before a trial.

A Democratic-run city (for over a half-a century) with a Democratic mayor and and overwhelmingly Democratic City Council (without a single Republican), in a state with a Democratic Governor, oversaw a police department that has been criticized for its conduct long before Floyd’s death, did nothing to remedy the problem, and now faces the consequences.

By what possible distortion of facts and logic can it be argued that Republicans are “trying to get away with murder”?

Once again, another question must be raised: how could CBS News Radio correspondent Steve Futterman, hearing Pelosi’s accusation, not point this out and still presume to be called a journalist? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/21/17: Dead Ethics Alarms All Over, And This Just In…Ana Navarro Is Still Stupid

Good Morning, all!

1 Dead Ethics Alarms on the Hill. Just as I cannot conceive of what kind of ethics alarm malfunction allows any man to think that parading his reproductive organs before unconsenting women in a work-related setting is anything but gross and wrong (Charlie Rose???), I cannot comprehend by what tortured logic an elected member of Congress reaches the conclusion that I should pay for his sexual harassment hobby. The latter is the height of arrogance and abuse of the public trust. Yet the Washington Post reported that Congress’s Office of Compliance paid out $17 million for 264 settlements with federal employees over the past 20 years for various violations, including sexual harassment, and now we have at least one name and specifics: John Conyers, the ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary. Perfect.

From Buzzfeed:

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic….The woman who settled with Conyers launched the complaint with the Office of Compliance in 2014, alleging she was fired for refusing his sexual advances, and ended up facing a daunting process that ended with a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of more than $27,000. Her settlement, however, came from Conyers’ office budget rather than the designated fund for settlements.

Well, this section of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is doing some good, by throwing some light on this unethical practice. Congressional sexual harassers need to pay their hush money out of their own pockets. That’s the least they can do.

2.  Live from New York! It’s Double Standards Live! Although Saturday Night Live did have the integrity to mock alum Al Franken following the Senator’s sexual harassment accusations regarding his conduct when he was just an obnoxious comic, 36 SNL staffers, including original cast members Lorraine  Newman and Jane Curtin, felt it was appropriate to release this letter:

SNL Women Offer Solidarity in Support of Al Franken

We feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken, whom we have all had the pleasure of working with over the years on Saturday Night Live (SNL). What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms Tweeden, and to the public. In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant. That is why we are moved to quickly and directly affirm that after years of working with him, we would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each of us with the utmost respect and regard.

We send our support and gratitude to Al and his family this Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Ugh. This is blatant Ethics Accounting, as if the fact that Al was fun to work with has anything to do with his misconduct, or mitigates it in any way:

21. Ethics Accounting, or “I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”. You cannot earn the right to act unethically by depositing a lot of ethical deeds in the imaginary ethics bank, nor can unethical conduct be erased by doing good for someone else. The illusion that one can balance the ethics books this way is referred to on the Ethics Alarms blog as “the Ruddigore Fallacy.”  Nobody earns the right to be unethical, not even once, no matter how exemplary their conduct. An unethical act is just as unethical, whether it is performed by a saint, a hero, or a villain.

Even more ridiculous is the “he never harassed me!” bit. This is reminiscent of Greta Van Susterin’s embarrassing defense of Roger Ailes, where she “stood up for” her boss and cast skepticism on his accusers because Greta had never been abused. The SNL letter drips with similar skepticism and bias. It is “appropriate” for Al to have apologized—never mind that the apology itself stunk on ice—and Al’s conduct may have been “stupid and foolish,” but come on, it wasn’t the worst thing.

What does standing up “in solidarity” mean, when it is in support of an accused harasser? It means “we don’t believe the victim, and anyway, we like the accused sufficiently that we will give him a pass.” I’m just guessing here, but I bet there are many, many women Harvey Weinstein worked with that he never molested, and that Louis C.K. hasn’t masturbated in front of every women he ever encountered. Those lucky women should sign a letter.

3. ” Gee, you mean I really have to pay it back?” In 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts, while South Dakota suspends driver’s licenses for the same provocation.  The tone of the New York Times article on the topic is disapproving, even though seven of the 19 states don’t use the laws that allow such suspensions, and the others mostly employ them as threats to get deadbeats to take their responsibilities seriously. Nobody in any of the states loses a license who sets up a payment schedule. Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Unprofessional Actor

Even John would have a problem with this actor's "method"...

Even John would have a problem with this actor’s “method”…

The 8th Circuit has ruled that actor Paul Doering was justly sentenced for his conduct during a 2011 theatrical event in which he was performing. What did he do?

For a Western-themed charity event in Hill City, South Dakota,  Doering portrayed an outlaw in a shootout.Stage actors using guns shoot blanks, of course. For some reason—extreme method acting? Bad reviews? That ineffable something that makes a star?—Doering used live rounds, real bullets, wounding three spectators.

And they say the theater is dull.

You can read about the case here; that’s of secondary interest. What I find fascinating is that this might be the most unethical performance by an actor in a theatrical performance ever.

John Wilkes Booth doesn’t qualify: he wasn’t in the cast when he shot Lincoln during “Our American Cousin.” I’m pretty sure he would have found Doering thoroughly unprofessional.