Alyssa Milano Gives Us A Sad Reminder That Celebrities Are Usually Over Their Heads When They Try To Opine On Policy, Law, Or Ethics [CORRECTED]

This raises the disturbing question of why anyone in their right mind is influenced by such celebrities. Presumably it is mostly those who are even more limited intellectually than the celebrity in question, or, in this case, big fans of “Who’s the Boss?”

Milano’s guest column in Deadline explaining why the #MeToo shill still supports Joe Biden is signature significance for someone who desperately needed to get a better education, or at least read a lot more before trying to “explain” anything, much less hang out a virtual shingle as an opinion-maker.

She outs herself as a victim of the Dunning-Kruger Effect right off the bat (I miss baseball). There’s no need to read on after this becomes obvious, by the third paragraph of her essay:

“As an activist, it can be very easy to develop a black and white view of the world: things are clearly wrong or clearly right. Harvey Weinstein’s decades of rape were clearly wrong. Donald Trump’s alleged sexual assaults were clearly wrong. Brett Kavanaugh’s actions, told consistently over decades by his victim (and supported by her polygraph results), were clearly wrong. So were Matt Lauer’s, Bill Cosby’s and so many others. As we started holding politicians and business leaders and celebrities around the world accountable for their actions, it was easy to sort things into their respective buckets: this is wrong, this is right. Holding people accountable for their actions was not only right, it was just. Except it’s not always so easy, and living in the gray areas is something we’re trying to figure out in the world of social media. But here’s something social media doesn’t afford us–nuance. The world is gray. And as uncomfortable as that makes people, gray is where the real change happens. Black and white is easy… Gray is where the conversations which continue to swirl around powerful men get started…. It’s not up to women to admonish or absolve perpetrators, or be regarded as complicit when we don’t denounce them. Nothing makes this clearer than the women who are still supporting Joe Biden even with these accusations. Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, Amy Klobuchar, Nancy Pelosi, and Elizabeth Warren have all endorsed Biden and like me, continue to support him…. This is the shitty position we are in as women….  Believing women was never about ‘Believe all women no matter what they say,’ it was about changing the culture of NOT believing women by default…. I hope you’ll meet me in the gray to talk and to help us both find the way out.”

Wait..what? Obviously—well, “obviously” if you know what the words you are using mean—“Donald Trump’s alleged sexual assaults” are not “clearly wrong,” because they are alleged and unproven, so we don’t know if they occurred. If they didn’t occur as claimed, they aren’t “clearly wrong.” Continue reading

Ethics Observations On A Case Study In Combining Bad Journalism With Bad Science

Yes, it’s the New York Times again. I use that paper for the majority of the Ethics Alarm unethical journalism posts for a few reasons. One is that the paper comes to my door every day, so I read a lot of articles that I might miss on the web.  Another is that the Times is the most successful and influential newspaper in the country,  and its work is more closely followed and more criticized than any other paper, and most news sources generally. The Times also advertises itself as the nation’s “paper of record,” placing itself on a pedestal with standards of integrity and reliability that it is obligated to meet….and does not. Finally, the paper is unacceptably biased in its political coverage and editorial product.

Today’s “Where America Didn’t Stay Home Even as the Virus Spread”  is far from then times at its worst. It is, however, unacceptable and unethical. I’m not even in disagreement with the piece’s main thesis, which is that the regions that have not imposed shelter at home restrictions on the public are at more risk of exploding Wuhan virus cases. That makes sense; that’s even obvious. However, the Times’s main tool in making a case was the map below, which it explained this way:

“Stay-at-home orders have nearly halted travel for most Americans, but people in Florida, the Southeast and other places that waited to enact such orders have continued to travel widely, potentially exposing more people as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates, according to an analysis of cellphone location data by The New York Times. The divide in travel patterns, based on anonymous cellphone data from 15 million people, suggests that Americans in wide swaths of the West, Northeast and Midwest have complied with orders from state and local officials to stay home.”

Continue reading

If You Want To Understand Why The Public Is So Easily Confused And Deceived, Follow Sports

Our education system simply does not train our young in critical thinking, and hasn’t for a long, long time. Then, as adults, we listen and watch supposed professionals who make their living informing us, enlightening us and communicating to us, and the level of reasoning they model is uniformly incompetent.

Nowhere is this more evident than in sports reporting. If you don’t follow sports, you don’t know what stupidity is being pumped into unsuspecting brains on a regular basis.

Here is an example: I was just listening to the MLB  radio channel’s “Loud Outs,” where the host, broadcaster and former player Ryan Spilborghs, was discussing the new baseball fad of beginning a game with relief pitcher who only throws an inning or two, and then bringing in the starter. There are theories that against certain line-ups this can create an advantage, but never mind: it’s irrelevant to the issue. Spilborghs, who really did attend college, says, “You know what convinced me? These stats…” and he began to read the won-lost records of various teams when they score first. “Overall, the average for all of Major League Baseball is that the team that scores first wins 70% of the time! Why wouldn’t you use this strategy if it meant that it increased your team’s chances of scoring first?” His partner, former player CJ Nitkowski, said, “You’re right!”

No, CJ, he’s an idiot, and so are you.

There is no magic to when a baseball team scores its runs. A run in the first inning is no more or less a run than a run in the 7th. The reason a team that scores first wins most of the time is, or would be, obvious if our schools weren’t crap, that in any baseball game, if one team begins with a one run handicap, it will lose most of the time. The team that scores first is like a team that begins the game with a one run advantage. Now, one run is a big advantage, but many of the teams in that 70% scored more than one run first. They really have an advantage: those teams probably win 85% of the time.  Then there is this factor that pollutes that stat that Spilborghs found so amazing: the teams that score first the most frequently are also the better of the two teams. They figured to win before they had a one, two or three run advantage.

The team that scores the most runs wins 100% of the time. Prioritizing scoring first with the result that your pitching is more likely to give up runs later in the game does not convey any advantage at all. If the “opener” pitching strategy results in opposition teams scoring fewer runs, then it has value. Preventing the other team from scoring first, by itself, is meaningless. ( How often does the team that scores last win the game? How about the team that scores the most runs in the fifth inning? Can you guess? Sure you can. But don’t tell Ryan. You’ll break his heart. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White of Popehat’”

This is the second Comment of the Day within a week from Ethics Alarms prodigal son Curmie, a college prof, who makes the case that college education is being excessively maligned. You should probably re-read the post he’s responding , another Comment of the Day, to appreciate his argument.

Here is Curmie’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White of Popehat”:

This is a cogent analysis up to a point, but I must say I’m more than a little sick and tired of having people tell me what goes on in my classroom. I teach at a non-flagship state university. And the description of what happens in college classrooms simply does not match my experience of them.

(Side note to Ryan: I really do like a lot of what you’ve said here. I apologize if the succeeding sounds like a personal attack. It is not intended in that spirit. Just one too many sweeping generalizations about my profession, and the last straw happened to be yours.)

Ryan cites Thomas Aquinas. I prefer the great late-20th century philosophers known as Monty Python: “I’m not dead yet.”

I do expect students to know some objective facts: if you can’t tell me the basic tenets of neoclassical theory or who David Garrick was, you’re not going to fare well in my theatre history class. If Ryan wants to say that in this sense I insist on regurgitation, he has my permission to do so.

But to get an A on the research paper, you’d better be able to interpolate from incomplete data, and to articulate a point of view based on the facts as they are available to us. That means finding out what the facts are, but also finding context: okay, so it cost a penny to see a play at the Globe Theatre. But that’s a meaningless statistic if you don’t know what that Elizabethan spectator could have bought for a penny if he didn’t spend it on standing room in an outdoor theatre. Continue reading

The Ethics Of Responding To Inconvenient Truths: Colleges Aren’t Working…Now What?

From the Wall Street Journal:

Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think. The results are discouraging.

At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table, The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016. …At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years. . . .

Some academic experts, education researchers and employers say the Journal’s findings are a sign of the failure of America’s higher-education system to arm graduates with analytical reasoning and problem-solving skills needed to thrive in a fast-changing, increasingly global job market. In addition, rising tuition, student debt and loan defaults are putting colleges and universities under pressure to prove their value.

Some?

What’s the other side saying, that the results are cooked? That critical thinking is over-rated or a sexist, racist, xenophobic construct? How can any objective individual who has followed the news, listened to activists babble incoherently on  campuses like Dartmouth, Yale, Columbia, University of Missouri and hundreds of others, been aware of higher ed apocalypse stories like this one , or notice that the overwhelming majority of college students enthusiastically supported the fact-, math-, economics-, foreign policy-, history-and Constitution- challenged candidacy of Bernie Sanders  be surprised at these findings? They aren’t even new.

The scam that is U.S. higher education poisons the American dream in too many ways to count.  50% of employers say that college graduates they hire aren’t ready for the workplace because of inadequate critical-reasoning skills.  Yet virtually every institution cites this as the prime benefit of paying it a king’s ransom for four years, with brochure proclamations like…

“The university seeks to foster in all its students lifelong habits of careful observation, critical thinking, creativity, moral reflection and articulate expression.”

and

“… University fosters intellectual inquiry and critical thinking, preparing graduates who will serve as effective, ethical leaders and engaged citizens.”

and

“The college provides students with the knowledge, critical-thinking skills and creative experience they need to navigate in a complex global environment.”

“At most schools in this country, students basically spend four years in college, and they don’t necessarily become better thinkers and problem solvers,” said Josipa Roksa, a University of Virginia sociology professor who co-wrote a book in 2011 about the CLA+ test, that littel-known test the Wall street Journal referred to. . “Employers are going to hire the best they can get, and if we don’t have that, then what is at stake in the long run is our ability to compete.”

Even the arguments used to defend college lack evidence of critical thinking. Today’s New York Times special Higher Ed section highlights this quote: Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Philosophy Professor Peter Boghossian

"Hmmm. OK, now THIS seriously undercuts some of my strongly held beliefs..."

“Hmmm. OK, now THIS seriously undercuts some of my strongly held beliefs…”

“We’ve taught, “Formulate your beliefs on the basis of evidence.” But the problem with that is people already believe they’ve formulated their beliefs on evidence — that’s why they believe what they believe. Instead, what we should focus on is teaching people to seek out and identify defeaters.

What is a defeater? A defeater is: If A, then B, unless C. C is the defeater. We should teach people to identify conditions under which their beliefs could be false.”

Peter Boghossian, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University, who studies critical thinking and moral reasoning, in a wide-ranging interview with  Malhar Mali

He continues, Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: University Of Minnesota Student Government

Let's agree to forget the whole thing. Might hurt someone's feelings.

Let’s agree to forget the whole thing. Might hurt someone’s feelings.

As the Political Correctness Amuck/Microaggression/ Racial Trust Breakdown/Free Speech Rejection Higher Education Breakdown continues to spread (I’ve GOT to come up with a snappier name), we are beginning to see the full, ugly results of paying exorbitant fees to have our children indoctrinated by arrogant, leftist, un-American pedants.

The latest symptom: the Minnesota Student Association, which is  the undergraduate student government at the University of Minnesota, rejected a resolution for a moment of recognition on future anniversaries of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The reason, according to the principle student advocate against the resolution, was that remembering the date 9/11  “is often used as reasoning for Islamophobia that takes both physical and verbal forms. The passing of this resolution might make a space that is unsafe for students on campus even more unsafe. Islamophobia and racism … are alive and well.”

Great. First it was punishing speech and thought. Now we need to censor history to make students feel “safe.” Continue reading

Americans Opine On Abortion: Thank You, USA Today, Now I Know Why We’re Doomed

Blindfolded-People

USA Today fashions itself as the newspaper of the average American, and it may well be true. Especially since its redesign, it contains less substance than a single section of the New York Times, pedestrian writing, and mostly bite-size features designed for an audience with an attention span that finds fortune cookies challenging. Every now and then, however, a bit like Family Feud, USA Today’s proud low brow style yields valuable insight. Yesterday’s feature on abortion was such an instance, as the paper gathered reader comments on its Facebook and Twitter locales for America’s opinion regarding Missouri’s new mandated three-day waiting period for women seeking an abortion.

Now that I have reviewed the responses, it all makes sense to me now, and I think I know where we are headed. Oh, there is no valuable insight regarding the measure or abortion among the comments. What is revealing is that among all the responses chosen by USA Today, not single reader could manage sufficient objectivity and critical thinking to produce  well-reasoned, fair, thoughtful insight regarding a public policy issue that demands measuring and balancing interests, values,  and outcomes, the essence of ethical decision-making. Not one.

Here they are, with my comments in bold: Continue reading