Category Archives: Research and Scholarship

Got It, Nate: Polling Is A Fraud. NOW You Tell Us.

 

Before we find out what happens in Alabama, I want to get this issue out there.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook in part,

“When did the polling profession go to Hell? Today a Fox poll shows Roy Moore 10 pts behind, and a local Alabama poll shows him 9 pts AHEAD. I’ve never seen anything like it. Moore has been edging ahead since last week, and now he’s losing again? Why bother with polling at all, if they can’t do better than this?”

This prompted two friends to send me to 538, the realm of alleged genius stat-head Nate Silver, who was pronounced the guru of election prognostication in 2012, and who became just another false prophet after failing as miserably in 2016 as everybody else. Silver posted an thorough, honest and disturbing explanation for the discrepancy, and one that didn’t include “Fox News is lying.”

It is worth reading; must reading, really. [Here it is.] The tipping point for me was this graph…

…to which Nate responded,

“Although releasing 10 different versions of the same poll may be overkill, it illustrates the extent to which polling can be an assumption-driven exercise…”

CAN be?

What I derive from Silver’s explanation is that polling doesn’t work any more, but the news media, politicians and pollsters want us to think it does.  There is no longer a reliable way to access a fair sampling of subjects, and the biases of pollsters create either unconscious or deliberate distortions in the poll results. This was always true to some extent [ DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!] but now we are looking at a “science” that is about as reliable and trustworthy as astrology. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/12/2017: Idiotic Roy Moore Endorsement, Irresponsible Drug, Incompetent Ethics Study…

Yeah, right…

1 Idiot’s Delight. It seems unkind to say, but today we will learn just how many idiots there are in Alabama. That’s useful information for any state, don’t you think? There is literally no non-idiotic justification for voting for a man like Moore, with his record, to any elective office, much less the U.S. Senate. Yet I strongly suspect he will win, and the disproportionately Democratic and liberal tilt of the those exposed in the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck will have been the tipping point.

Here is a jaw-dropping example of the level of intellectual rigor expected of Moore voters.

At an election eve Moore event,  one of the speakers was Bill Staehle, who served with Moore in Vietnam. As an endorsement of Moore, Staehle told the tale of a fellow soldier comrade of both men who  invited them to accompany him to a private club in Saigon to celebrate the man’s final night there. The third man drove them to the club in his Jeep, but when they arrived, Staehle told the crowd, it became clear that they were at a brothel, and that their colleague had tricked them.

“There were certainly pretty girls. And they were girls. They were young. Some were very young,” Staehle said. Here is the point of the story: Moore was shocked by what he saw, Staehle claims. “We shouldn’t be here, I’m leaving,” Staehle, quoted the future disgraced judge and absurd Senate candidate as saying. They both left, leaving their friend stranded with underage prostitutes all night.

The moral of the story: “He’s the same guy… He’s honorable. He’s disciplined. Morally straight. Highly principled.”

Hey, I’m convinced!

The story, of course, proves nothing relevant to Moore’s character at all, and if Staehle thinks it does, he’s an idiot.

Staehle hadn’t seen Moore in 45 years, and this was a single incident. How does he know “He’s the same guy”? Besides, the anecdote tells us nothing about Moore’s character. Who knows why Moore left? Maybe he didn’t want to pay for sex with young girls, knowing that he could get plenty free once he got back to Sweet Home Alabama. Maybe he wasn’t attracted to Asian girls. Maybe he was afraid of getting a disease.

Only an idiot would find Staehle’s logic persuasive….but that is the target group, I guess. Continue reading

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Paul Krugman, The Anti-Haidt

I don’t bother with New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman here, for the most part. He constantly discredits himself by intentionally misleading his gullible readers, hiding the ball, engaging in deceit as an advocacy tool, over-stating and hyping and generally bolstering his progressive opinions with a nauseating combination of intellectual dishonesty, hypocrisy and condescension. I have no patience with such columnists, or any publication that inflicts them on its readers.

A parallel in the sportswriting field is the much lionized Thomas Boswell, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who writes for the Washington Post. Boswell has written several books, and is regarded by many as a deep thinker about baseball. (My wife and I once were friends with a couple that socialized with the Boswells, and invited us to join the four of them for an evening. I told them that I could not stomach being in the same room with the guy.)  Many years ago, Boswell was writing about the individual talents of the Boston Red Sox, a topic I know at least as much about as he does. In assessing then-Sox catcher Jason Varitek, Boswell noted that “Tek” led the league in passed balls, leaving the impression that this demonstrated a serious flaw in his catching abilities. But I knew, and more importantly Boswell knew, that the Red Sox  had a regular rotation starting pitcher, Tim Wakefield, who was a knuckleballer, and was the only starting pitcher in the league who threw that confounding pitch.  If a catcher regularly catches a knuckleball pitcher, he leads the league in passed balls, usually by a large margin. Always. It has nothing to do with how good a catcher he is, and Varitek was a very good catcher. Yet Boswell deliberately cited the statistic without explaining to his readers what it meant in Vartitek’s case. He did this because he was trying to argue that Boston had defensive problems. This is unethical advocacy, and unethical journalism.

After that, I only read Boswell’s columns to document his dishonesty. I was never disappointed. He’s a cheat, relying on the ignorance of his audience to deceive them.

Paul Krugman is like that. After I posted the quote from Jonathan Haidt’s speech in which the professor perfectly described the ideology-driven betrayal of the culture and our democracy by institutions of higher education, I recalled a recent Krugman piece in the Times that I had instantly dismissed as classic deceit. One passage was literally the anti-matter version of Haidt’s hard truth regarding the rot in our colleges, a deliberate lie that denied the existence of the problem in order to further Krugman’s perpetual attack on Republicans and conservatives.

Behold: Continue reading

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This Explains A Lot, I Guess…

Here’s another planned post from those lost notes on a Sunday Times I just found from two weeks ago:

In  the New York Times Magazine,  the Times announced the results of an online poll of 2, 903 subscribers by its research-and-analytics  department. 72% Times loyalists would prefer to have done something horrible that only they knew about than to have everyone think they did a horrible thing that they really didn’t do.

Wait…what?

See, if you did a secret horrible thing, there really was someone hurt by your conduct. If people just think you did a horrible thing, you in fact hurt nobody, and did nothing wrong. This was a sneaky way of asking, “Are you a selfish and unethical human being, or not?”  Well, sneaky assuming that Times subscribers are incapable of thought, or that they let their 12-year-old kids answer Times research questions. About 3/4 answered, “Oh, I’m completely unethical!”

For the sake of clarity, let’s assume that both sides of the question involve the same horrible act, agreed? After all, if the real act is setting an orphanage on fire, and the wrongly believed act is farting loudly during a funeral service, or vice versa, the question is ridiculously easy.

So…72% of Times subscribers would rather have murdered a child than have everyone wrongly think they murdered a child? Molested a child? Broiled and eaten a child? Committed adultery? Spousal abuse? Spousal torture? Buried a spouse alive? Keeping a spouse locked in a dungeon? Locking a spouse in a dungeon with rabid wolverines?

What does this poll result tell the Times? What were they trying to learns? What does it tell us?

I guess it might explain the continued presence of the likes of Charles Blow, Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman on the Times op-ed pages.

Or maybe their presence explains why Times subscribers reason as they do.

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Morning Ethics Warm Up, 11/15/17: Rush, Creepy Joe, Fake Fake News, And Yum-Yum

Good Morning!

1 Save the “Mikado”! Yesterday I was honored to be able to participate in a Smithsonian Associates lecture on the careers and operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. The Georgetown Gilbert and Sullivan Society was kind enough to invite me to sing “Tit Willow” as part of its segment at the event, which played to a full house. It’s a shame, and alarming for the future of live theater, operetta, and the vitality of the G$S canon, that the average age of participants appeared to be approximately 94, give or take a decade.

Before I warbled “Tit Willow,” once as well-known to the average U.S. adult as “My Way” (John Wayne sings the chorus in “The Shootist”) I went off-script to say, “As you all probably know, this song is from ‘The Mikado.’ It is a wonderful show, and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.” The statement got nods and knowing looks, because they knew exactly what I was talking about.

Right now, the more than 80 Gilbert and Sullivan performance groups in the U.S., plus various opera and regional theater companies, have almost abandoned the best and most performed of the 14 sui generis shows by the great duo for fear of getting into a political correctness battle. “The Mikado,” you see, is now considered “racist,” because Gilbert had the ridiculous (and typical) idea of presenting a satire of English foibles and personalities as if Great Britain had suddenly been turned into an upside-down version of Japan. The script is self-referential on the gag (“I often wonder, in my artless Japanese way…”; “He might have had initials on his pocket handkerchief, but Japanese don’t carry pocket handkerchiefs!” ), as Gilbert was one of the fathers of post-modern humor. The show has been popular in Japan, and all over the world. A popular Broadway adaptation (“The Hot Mikado”) had an all-black cast—still in Japanese costumes—speaking and singing jive versions of the dialogue and songs. Gilbert included a song (“I’ve got a Little List”) that accommodated current events updates, so the show is arguably the most continuously topical of all the Victorian operettas—and all of them are still funny.

Never mind all that. “The Mikado” has been targeted by offense-mongering progressives, and theater companies, which are always a bad decision or two from bankruptcy, find it easier to cave and just produce “The Pirates of Penzance” instead.

“The Mikado, ” directed and performed properly, is better than 85% of all Broadway musicals. It is also cheaper, can be performed effectively by all ages, is infinitely adaptable, and is free: it’s in the public domain. It is a cultural treasure, as important to preserve as the best Shakespeare tragedies or  “David Copperfield.” The battle for “The Mikado” has to be fought, and if there is any theater company out there, amateur or professional, who has the guts to fight it, call me. I can help.

2.  Ridiculous Roy Moore defense of the week. I haven’t been listening to Rush Limbaugh for a long time: is he finally losing it? This week he appeared to be suggesting that because Roy Moore was a Democrat when he was lusting after teen-age girls, there is some kind of hypocrisy involved in the controversy over his Senate campaign, saying,

“Did you know that before 1992, when a lot of this was going on, that Judge Moore was a Democrat? Nobody said a word. When he supposedly was attracted to inappropriately aged girls — he was a Democrat.”

So what? Moore could have been a Rosicrucian when he was molesting girls, and it wouldn’t matter. He’s running for the U.S. Senate NOW, and as a Republican. Either Rush is deliberately making what he knows is a terrible argument that will confuse idiots in his audience, meaning that he is dishonest, or he really believes that it is some kind of mitigation to the GOP’s irresponsible support for Moore that he was a Democrat when he broke the Alabama child molestation law. This would mean that Rush is now an idiot himself. Continue reading

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Easy Ethics Quiz: Bill Nye The Science Guy’s Ambush Slapdown

On his own Reddit forum where readers are allowed to “Ask Me Anything,” Bill Nye the Science Guy, who has recently been making a pretty penny shilling for the climate change policy lobby, was made the target of this:

Hi Bill,

I have a great way you can start. Stop pretending you’re a scientist.

In science, we begin with facts. The facts show you have no formal science education beyond a Bachelors in mechanical engineering from Cornell. That’s it. Not even a Masters degree, let alone a Doctorate. You literally have no formal science education beyond an undergraduate degree. The facts also show that the whole “Science Guy” persona emerged out of a stand-up comedy routine you used to perform on local public-access TV back in the 80’s:

Good science requires valid data, so, here you go:

You’ve spent years parading around in a lab coat, even after your Disney series ended.. parading around in a way which makes most people, particularly children, think that you’re qualified to speak on matters you have no formal experience, education, or training on. For all intents and purposes, you’re a talented actor-comedian with an opinion who inserts himself into public dialogue…and that’s about it.

Good science also requires peer-review, so, here you go: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/8/17: Featuring The Most Depressing Question You Have Heard In A Long Time. I Hope.

Good Morning!

1 Yesterday there was a fascinating article on how the famous opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” was (perhaps) made. I have been meaning to make a comment about the new Sirius-XM Beatles Channel, which I had occasion to listen to for many hours while being trapped in traffic jams and construction driving back and forth to Virginia Beach and Richmond, and this is a good time to post it.

I have been getting lousy, dishonest, bait-and-switch service and products with such regularity lately, ranging from an investment firm that couldn’t send the proper forms to give me access to my own money, to Verizon, which has been giving me a six-month runaround while its slooooow WiFi breaks down for days, to Progresso soup, which either decided to put what looks and feels like ground up chicken bones in its vegetable soup, or just the can I bought, that I  had despaired of again seeing anything approaching excellence for the sake of excellence  from a U.S. business until I returned to Disneyland or Fenway Park. The Beatles Channel makes the grade. It isn’t just the songs, which would have made the channel a hit all by themselves. Sirius-XM includes scholarship, history, musicology, rare recordings, interviews, celebrity and non-celebrity disc jockeys and cultural analysis, around the clock, with new programming every day. I’ve sat through college courses that were less thorough, and too many courses to count, in both college and graduate school, that were less informative and valuable. There are some things worth paying for, and products that are better than you expected!

2. The New York Times  headline after a hard day’s night for the GOP in Virginia and New Jersey: DEMOCRATS SCORE TWO BIG VICTORIES IN TRUMP REBUKE.

I’m sure it was the koi.

This is flagrant spin and distortion, and unethical journalism. The New York Times should just put “You hate the President, you know you do” on the banner. The Times didn’t call last November’s across the board rejection of Democrats in state house races and Congress an “Obama rebuke,” though it was, and the results in Virginia and New Jersey cannot be fairly pinned on Trump. The two state governors races went pretty much as everyone assumed they would months ago. New Jersey’s result, from a very Democratic state, was a predictable rejection of its spectacularly failed and detested Republican governor, and Virginia’s election of a moderate Democrat over a Republican who tried to both reject Trump while trying to hitch-hike on some of his better positions was predictable as well.

I would also guess that the Donna Brazile revelations about the Democratic Party’s corruption is not on  typical voter’s radar, so the wave of self-hating Democrats staying home that some predicted did not materialize. The Texas shooting, however, probably activated the always vigorous “The Constitution be damned, think of the children!” knee-jerk progressive block to go to the polls.

By now the Times’ routine propaganda tricks are no surprise, but the practice of attaching editorial comments connoting negative implications for the President is neither fair nor objective. But then, the news media knows this: it is attempting a coup by poisoning public opinion. This is the major ethics story—and ethics crisis—in the nation today, and has been so for a year.

3. Now a compliment to the New York Times. Finally, someone wrote an relatively honest article regarding the causes of mass shootings in the U.S. “What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer” is the online version; the print edition headline is “Only One Thing Explains Mass Shootings In The United States.” Both headlines are misleading—the Times has a headline problem—but the article’s main point is correct: “The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.”

Not inadequate laws. Not enforcement. Not crazy people. Not crime. Not the NRA.

Just lots of guns.

Thank you.

The Times also correctly hints at—it could have and should have done more than hint—why we have more guns than any other country:

In the process of making a comparison between the US and Switzerland, which as the country with second highest gun ownership rate has far fewer shootings (Fun Facts! Switzerland, like Australia, isn’t the United States, and the Swiss, like Australians, are not like Americans), the Times notes,

“Swiss gun laws are more stringent, setting a higher bar for securing and keeping a license, for selling guns and for the types of guns that can be owned. Such laws reflect more than just tighter restrictions. They imply a different way of thinking about guns, as something that citizens must affirmatively earn the right to own.”

Translation: The United States protects and guarantees the inherent human right to self-defense and autonomy, and Switzerland doesn’t. In the U.S., the wise Founders, government doesn’t have to grant you the right to own a gun; you already have it. Or in other words, Switzerland isn’t the United States. (See above.) God bless America.

The Times continues under the heading “The Difference is Culture”:

“The United States is one of only three countries, along with Mexico and Guatemala, that begin with the opposite assumption: that people have an inherent right to own guns.The main reason American regulation of gun ownership is so weak may be the fact that the trade-offs are simply given a different weight in the United States than they are anywhere else.”

May be”? That’s exactly why Swiss-style “regulation”—as in “We tell you if you can own a gun and what kind of gun you ‘need., Citizen!”—isn’t an option in the U.S. The Constitution also gives the right to speech a different “weight” than other cultures do, and the amount of certainty required to send someone to prison, and when the police can search your home, and many other examples where this nation and this culture insists that individuals and individual rights come first, not government power. The fact that the United States accepts the costs of individual liberty is what makes it the United States.

There are so many guns in the U.S. because Americans like guns, and in this country, people generally can make and get what they like. They should like guns: the United States,more than others, owes its existence to guns. Our most popular entertainment involves guns. Most of all, the #2 mandate in the Bill of Rights guarantees that every citizen begins life with the right to own guns.

Mass shootings are a side effect of the Second Amendment and the core individual right to be armed. The only way to reduce such shootings is to eliminate that right and confiscate guns. Either the currently vocal anti-gun zealots understand this and are lying, or they don’t, and are ignorant.

[The National Review has some legitimate criticism of the Times data analysis, but it doesn’t affect the validity of the Times general conclusion.]

4. Here’s the depressing ethics note of the day, or perhaps the year. On the first day of jury deliberations at the bribery trial of Senator Robert Menendez, a juror asked the judge a basic question: “What is a Senator?”

I guess a necessary voir dire question or two was omitted by the lawyers .

The judge should disqualify that juror.

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