Unethical Quote Of The Month: USA Today Op-Ed Writer Elvia Diaz

“Jack Wilson is a hero alright. It took him only six seconds to kill a gunman at a Texas church, saving countless lives. Unfortunately, that kind of split-second heroism has been turned into a PR tool by gun advocates…. he’s exactly the kind of man you want around with a firearm. But we know nothing about the at least six other parishioners who also appeared to draw their handguns at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. And that’s terrifying.”

Elvia Diaz of the  Arizona Republic, USA Today, in a Jan. 1 , 2020  USA Today op-ed.

The paper, soon to be defunct (thankfully—I would not be shocked if it didn’t last the year), has been furiously flamed on social media for this obnoxious and telling commentary. It doesn’t take much, beyond respect for American citizens and the Second Amendment, to pinpoint the ethics illness on display here.

Every mass shooting instantly is politicized into a repetition of the anti-gun propaganda that has become a reflex on the Left and in the mainstream media since the Sandy Hook school shooting. The disappointment among this group over a shooting being foiled by a lawful gun owner has been nauseating. The right to own guns is the right to self-defense, and not to have to depend solely on  the government for self-preservation.

The result in White Settlement should be used to counter the efforts to strip gun rights from citizens, because there are many benefits to society of private gun ownership.

The op-ed perfectly summarizes the media’s distrust of Americans and personal liberty. It’s so terrifying that those owning guns, and prepared to use them lawfully, haven’t been certified as worthy of self-defense rights by obtrusive government overseers. What an ugly bias.

The social media reactions have been impressively on point… Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up: “Important Ethics Stories That I Don’t Feel Like Writing A Lot About Or Am Thoroughly Disgusted With” Edition

Happy Weekend!

I hope you’re not working the whole time, like I am. However, the Red Sox have their first Spring Training game, they are playing the Yankees, and all is serene.

1. Another one of Trump’s “best people” bites the dust, or should soon.   Judge Kenneth A. Marra of Federal District Court in West Palm Beach ruled that accused serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s secret sweetheart plea deal agreed to by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta when he was a federal prosecutor violated federal law.

The corrupt arrangement  protected the billionaire from serious jail time and also  protected his politically-connected  friends including, notably Bill Clinton, from accountability despite their visits to Epstein’s  infamous island resort via the so-called “Lolita Express,” the private plane where young girls allegedly provided sexual services to the passengers. Ick.

I wrote a post about this unfolding scandal here. At that time, last November, I wrote,

“I do not see how Acosta can remain as Secretary of Labor following these revelation, incomplete as they are. I don’t see how we can trust his judgment, and even if, somehow, he could justify the deal with Epstein on legal, technical or pragmatic grounds, I doubt that the general public would be reassured. He should resign.”

Hey, I beat Jonathan Turley by almost three months!

2. Is the media assault on Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) for being an abusive boss legitimate? I have to say, it sure looks like it. The moderate Democratic Presidential hopeful might also be the target of a leftist news media that favors her more extreme competitors, but most Americans don’t know much about Klobuchar and can’t pronounce her name. The news media needs to introduce her, but it also shouldn’t poison the well. Conservatives, who don’t like her but like her a lot better than the likes of Senators Warren, Harris or Booker, are defending Klobuchar by arguing that she is being subjected to a double standard, since so many male officials past and present have been equally unpleasant. That’s just an “everybody does it” rationalization. There are good reasons to worry about the judgment and temperament of leaders who treat subordinates disrespectfully and cruelly, as in yesterday’s Times story about Klobuchar demanding that an aide clean her comb.

The problem is that the mainstream news media is not applying similar scrutiny, at least not yet, to similarly dubious candidates like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

3. Great. Just what we need.   “If Mueller is done, states could file their own charges — even against Trump,” says the Washington Post. So this is really the way it is: “the resistance” and its Democratic allies will continue to harass and obstruct the elected President forever, as their endless tantrum over losing the 2016 election. I have written that nothing could make me vote for someone with Donald Trump’s non-ethical approach to life as President, but I am beginning to think that only a Trump victory in 2020 will save the country from an endless cycle of partisan sabotage of Presidents, regardless of party, going forward. This unethical strategy has to fail, and fail hard. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 12/12/18: Silent Sam, Nasty Nancy, Tendentious TIME

Happy pre-Christmas panic days!

Once we’re under the two week mark, it’s all anxiety, regrets, list-making, fatigue, nostalgia, and tree needles under the nails. This is what Andy called “the most wonderful time of the year.

1. The theory: political correctness and historical airbrushing is a higher priority than education. The University of North Carolina \Board of Trustees’ approved of a proposal to build erect a $5 million history center that would, among other things, house “Silent Sam,” a statue dedicated to fallen UNC grads who fought for the Confederacy. The statue stood on campus until protesters tore it down in August. Now some faculty members and graduate assistants are threatening to go on a “grade strike,” withholding grades on papers and exams to force the school to abandon “Silent Sam” for all time. They are also trying to encourage students to support their protest.

Wrote the UNC administration in response:

“This afternoon it came to my attention that some instructors have used their roles in the classroom to ask students to take a stand on the strike,” Blouin said in the email, a copy of which Campus Reform obtained. “The University has received student and parent complaints. Such actions have been interpreted as coercion and an exploitation of the teacher-student relationship and in fact are a violation of students’ First Amendment rights as well as federal law….Our students are entitled to receive their grades in a timely manner. It is especially critical for the students preparing to graduate next Sunday, as well as the thousands of students whose scholarships, grants, loans, visa status, school transfers, job opportunities, and military commissions may be imperiled because lack of grades threaten[s] their eligibility,” the provost stated. “The proposed strike exposes the University and individuals who withhold grades to legal claims for the harm they cause to students…“Failure to meet [the faculty and GA’s] responsibilities to their students, including timely submission of final grades, will result in serious consequences.”

Firing, I hope.

2. Boy, that Trump is such an uncivil boor! House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, setting a civility example for us all while describing her meeting with the President on “the wall’: “It’s like a manhood thing for him, as if manhood could ever be associated with him….It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

Nice.

Imagine the howls of indignation if the President described a foreign leader in such terms. Or the mass condemnation from both parties and the news media if any prior President had been insulted that way by a member of Congress.

3. “A person, a group, an idea, or an object that “for better or for worse… has done the most to influence the events of the year.” I would applaud TIME’s choice of journalists as the fading magazine’s “Person of the year” if it had the integrity to point out that this is an example of “the worse.” Indeed, journalists have deliberately warped and sabotaged public debate and discourse, withheld or buried information the public needs to know, divided the nation, defied their profession’s ethical standards, undermined their own institution and with it the health of American democracy, relentlessly worked to destabilize the Trump administration and undo the election, and have engaged in repeated incompetence, bias, dishonesty and conflicts of interest. The harm journalists have done is incalculable, and probably irreversible.

Quipped “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams: “Fake News is TIME’s “Person of the Year.”

Bingo. Continue reading

Observations On The Instapundit’s Tweet

reynolds-tweet

Yesterday, conservative law professor, author and blogger Glenn Reynolds learned that Twitter had suspended his account, and he wrote on his iconic website Instapundit...

Can’t imagine why they’d do that, except that it seems to be happening to a lot of people for no obvious reason. It’s as if, despite assurances to the contrary, Twitter is out to silence voices it disagrees with or something.

Then he learned that his offense was the above tweet. Reynolds wrote…

Sorry, blocking the interstate is dangerous, and trapping people in their cars is a threat. Driving on is self-preservation, especially when we’ve had mobs destroying property and injuring and killing people. But if Twitter doesn’t like me, I’m happy to stop providing them with free content.

and..

“Run them down” perhaps didn’t capture this fully, but it’s Twitter, where character limits stand in the way of nuance”

But one of Reynolds’ extra-curricular gigs (he is a University of Tennessee law professor) is monthly columnist for USA Today. After the progressive Furies took to social media and demanded that he be fired from the law school, dropped by the newspaper and forced to wander in the wilderness in sackcloth, Gannett’s paper suspended him for a month.

Reynolds was reinstated by Twitter after purging the offending tweet, and he issued this mea culpa to USA Today:

Wednesday night one of my 580,000 tweets blew up. I didn’t live up to my own standards, and I didn’t meet USA TODAY’s standards. For that I apologize, to USA TODAY readers and to my followers on social media.

I was following the riots in Charlotte, against a background of reports of violence. Joe Bruno of WSOC9 interviewed a driver whose truck had been stopped by a mob. Trapped in her cab, she “feared for her life” as her cargo was looted. Then I retweeted a report of mobs “stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles” with the comment, “Run them down.”

Those words can easily be taken to advocate drivers going out of their way to run down protesters. I meant no such thing, and I’m sorry it seemed I did. What I meant is that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles. I remember Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was beaten nearly to death by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. My tweet should have said, “Keep driving,” or “Don’t stop.”

I have always supported peaceful protests, speaking out against police militarization and excessive police violence in my USA TODAY columns, on my website and on Twitter itself. I understand why people misunderstood my tweet and regret that I was not clearer.

Today, Reynolds wrote on Instapundit:

TWITTER HAS UNBLOCKED MY ACCOUNT ON CONDITION OF DELETING THE OFFENDING TWEET. But lest I be accused of airbrushing, it’s preserved here. Still planning on quitting Twitter, though, after making a few points. Earlier post is here. UPDATE: From Nick Gillespie at Reason: In Defense Of InstaPundit’s Glenn Reynolds. “Whatever you think of the tastefulness of his suggestion regarding the protesters in Charlotte, the idea that he is seriously inciting any sort of actual or real threat is risible.”

Related: “Glenn Reynolds is old enough to remember Reginald Denny. (Look it up, kids.)”

and

SO MY USA TODAY COLUMN is suspended for a month. My statement is here. I don’t apologize for saying that you shouldn’t stop for angry mobs, even if they’re blocking your way. But I could have said it better

Observations:

Continue reading

Yes Indeed, Elite College Grads Can Still Be Civically Incompetent Fools

They have been rumored, and caught in dubious, fuzzy photos, but does an intelligent, rational Donald Trump supporter really exist? The quest continues...

They have been rumored, and caught in dubious, fuzzy photos, but does an intelligent, rational Donald Trump supporter really exist? The quest continues…

In my constant quest to find someone, anyone, who can defend their support of Donald Trump with a substantive argument rather than the emotional, nonsensical rationalizations I have heard and read so far, I came upon  a USA Today essay by “Weekly Standard” contributing right-winger Charlotte Allen—she is kind of like Ann Coulter, but not funny— called “Why a Stanford grad joined the Trump revolt.” I was momentarily thrilled, then my hopes were immediately dashed. The answer to the headline’s question is simply “Because graduates of prestigious schools can be just as irresponsible and ignorant as anyone else.” Her pathetic essay proves it.

To begin with, appeal to authority is a lazy debate fallacy (“Proposition X is valid because Authority A says so”—you know, like “bats are blind because Neil De Grasse Tyson says so”…), but appealing to your own authority is ridiculous. “I went to Stanford, and I voted for Donald Trump. So did my husband. He went to Yale,” Allen begins. The required response: Who the hell cares? The only people who think a degree means you are smart are dumb people, some of whom have impressive degrees themselves.

Now, the essay could have been so dazzling in its pro-Trump logic that it simultaneously redeemed Trump supporters and the two schools the piece embarrasses. It was not.

The essay begins with the boot-strapping argument that it isn’t ignorant and irresponsible to vote for Trump because in Massachusetts a lot of educated people voted for him. “Low-information voter” doesn’t mean uneducated voter, however. It means people who aren’t paying attention, or who filter out information they don’t want to hear, or who are informed in some areas but get their political news from partisan websites and cable stations.  Continue reading

Facebook Grammar, Lincoln Chafee, USA Today, and Confirmation Bias

The smartest supporters of all!

He has the smartest supporters of all!

USA Today once was a mediocre newspaper that had one virtue: it was convenient for travelers, and sadly more useful for following non-locale news development than all but a handful of city publications. Now it isn’t a newspaper at all, but some hybrid monstrosity that is laid out like a website, has articles too short to be complete or helpful, and a product pandering to those with small vocabularies and attention spans that have been destroyed by the internet. But it’s often free, so on my latest (horrible, miserable, disaster-filled) seminar tour around Virginia, I had the pleasure of opening an edition and seeing what immediately struck me as the kind of feature no respectable journalistic enterprise would tolerate.

USA Today political writer Paul Singer thought newsworthy a ridiculous exercise that could only have sprung from a toxic mix of bias and silliness. It’s objective: let’s either prove that Republicans and conservatives are dumber than their Democrat, liberal counterparts, or prove that an accepted way of measuring intelligence is inaccurate for the purpose, because it doesn’t prove that Republicans are morons, and we all know they are. The feature was called “Democrats crush Republicans in grammar; Chafee on top.”

This is yet another self-rebutting exercise, as proven by the headline. Lincoln Chafee is a well-established boob, as they will tell you, if you ask, in his home base of Rhode Island. The man announced his Presidential run citing his primary cause as getting the U.S. to adopt the metric system. This immediately places him in the long and amusing line of wacko candidates, including…

Homer Aubrey Tomlinson, who was a New York City preacher that ran for the presidency under the banner of the Theocratic Party in five elections, from 1952 until his death in 1968. He wanted to replace taxation with tithing and promised to create a new cabinet post: Secretary of Righteousness. Later, Tomlinson declared himself King of the World and staged coronation ceremonies in 101 different countries, in which he appeared wearing a gold-plated crown, an inflatable globe and a folding chair as his throne. And…

California congressman John G. Schmitz, who was the American Independent Party candidate for president in 1972. He was expelled from the John Birch Society for “extremism,” which sort of says it all. Schmitz also endorsed the return of segregated schools, and later announced that he was rooting for a military coup. Mary Kay Letourneau is his daughter. Then there is…

HRM Caesar St. Augustine de Buonaparte, who is running now as The Absolute Dictator Party’s candidate. He says that all the major politicians are “niggers” and so is everyone else “because we all die on our death bed and watch our offspring fight over our money.” He pledges to replace any government employee who does not have an IQ of at least 150.

So if Chafee has the followers with the most facility with the language, what does it tell us about the usefulness of that factor in assessing, well, anything? It tells me that this was an inquiry designed to embarrass Republicans that failed, but USA Today decided to publish it anyway with big color graphics using up about half a page in a paper that typically has only a couple of pages as substance.

The stunt was the brainchild of some Marketing flack at Grammarly, a writing app that thought it might increase the number of people who ever heard of it from five to nineteen. According to a Grammarly release, using the app on the websites of presidential candidates’ Facebook pages showed that Democratic commenters made an average of 4.2 mistakes per 100 words compared to 8.7 mistakes for supporters of Republican candidates. The Democratic supporters also showed a larger vocabulary, using on average 300 unique words per 1,000 words, while Republicans used only 245. Here was the methodology:

We began by taking a large sample of Facebook comments containing at least fifteen words from each candidate’s official page between April, 2015 and August, 2015. Next, we created a set of guidelines to help limit (as much as possible) the subjectivity of categorizing the comments as positive or negative. Since the point of the study was to analyze the writing of each candidate’s supporters, we considered only obviously positive or neutral comments. Obviously negative or critical comments, as well as ambiguous or borderline negative comments, were disqualified.

We then randomly selected at least 180 of these positive and neutral comments (~6,000 words) to analyze for each candidate. Using Grammarly, we identified the errors in the comments, which were then verified and tallied by a team of live proofreaders. For the purposes of this study, we counted only black-and-white mistakes such as misspellings, wrong and missing punctuation, misused or missing words, and subject-verb disagreement. We ignored stylistic variations such as the use of common slang words, serial comma usage, and the use of numerals instead of spelled-out numbers.

Finally, we calculated the average number of mistakes per one hundred words by dividing the total word count of the comments by the total number of mistakes for each candidate.

There are many problems with this, of course, the primary one being “Who cares?,” followed by “How do you know that the same commenters aren’t writing on the walls of multiple candidates?” “Isn’t this another classist, pro-coastal, elitist exercise?” “Since when is Facebook spelling and grammar an accepted measure of anything?” “How about finding out how many supporters of each candidate read USA Today, or worse, trust it?”

Now there’s an intelligence test.

Why would people waste their time writing on campaign Facebook pages, when almost none of the candidates actually look at them? How do we know the smartest Democratic supporters waste their time on Facebook, while only the dumbest Republican supporters use is? But never mind all the problems with the methodology: Grammarly is a lousy app and doesn’t work. Continue reading

The Idiot Effect

Or would you prefer, "The Old Man and the Sea"?

Or would you prefer, “The Old Man and the Sea”?

Last night, in a rash moment, my wife and I used pay-per-view last night to watch a film called “The Lazarus Effect.” The “effect” seems to be that when you use an experimental medical procedure to bring someone recently deceased back from death, what arrives is not the same person but an altered, super-powered mutation FROM HELL!!!! The movie wasn’t terrible as mad experiments gone horribly wrong films go,  but what was immediately impressive about it was its length: the thing was running credits before an hour and fifteen minutes was up.

That’s a movie? In the Sixties and Seventies there were weekly TV dramas longer than that even if you didn’t count the commercials.

Recent studies have documented the diminishing attention span of the average American, with the young leading the way. The reasons for this are a matter of debate, but there is no doubt that the news media, entertainment industry and the arts are both accommodating this disability and contributing to it. The consequences are dire. Continue reading