Incompetence Saturday Begins: That Annoying “Ten Concerts, One’s A Lie” Facebook Game

It’s a relief to know that I occasionally pay attention to what I teach.

When so many of my Facebook friends started rushing like lemmings to play the viral “Name ten concerts you attended, with one phony one” game yesterday, I hesitated, and not just because listing Al Jolson, Enrico Caruso and  Jenny Lind would reveal my true age. I had just been explaining to a group of Pennsylvania lawyers that they probably weren’t as competent in using technology and social media as they thought they were, and that if there was one thing of value to extract from the last Presidential campaign, it was a searing lesson in the consequences of being naive, lazy and gullible while using the internet. (Yes, I’m looking at you, John Podesta!)

By purest coincidence, yesterday also marked my four hour efforts, involving four phone calls, three phones, two websites, three passwords and a consultant (my son), to switch my e-mail address from Verizon to AOL, since AOL has purchased Verizon’s e-mail business. As I neared the finish line of this ordeal, I encountered AOL’s list of “Secret Security Questions.” One of them was “What was the first concert you attended?

Hmmmm… Continue reading

The Free Range Mom, Bias, and the Perils Of Blind Loyalty

About  the blind leading the blind---not only is it dangerous, it looks ridiculous to those who can see.

About the blind leading the blind—not only is it dangerous, it looks ridiculous to those who can see.

One of my favorite bloggers just fell into the blind loyalty trap. I’m sympathetic, but this is something that those who accept the responsibility of  teaching us important lessons and clarifying difficult issues must avoid at all costs. Bias makes us stupid, and blind loyalty breeds bias like carrion breeds maggots. It pains me to see Lenore Skenazy, author of the Free Range Kids blog, undermine her credibility like this.

She titled her post Horrible Editorial Chides Mom for Not Predicting Unpredictable Crime. In it, she takes the side of a mother who left her four-year-old son in an unlocked, running van while she picked up her daughter at a northeast school. Someone was drove her van off with her son in it, and subsequently crashed. The boy was unhurt. Under the circumstances, there is nothing horrible about the editorial, which uses the incident—even Skenazy agrees that the mother’s conduct was “dumb”—to caution parents about leaving children in cars. This is the editorial that aroused Skenazy to defend the indefensible:

“A Calgary mom has no doubt learned her lesson. The woman recently left her four-year-old son in her unlocked, running van while she picked up her daughter at a northeast school. The mother said she was gone about six minutes, and when she came out, someone was stealing her van with her son in it.

Fortunately, the incident ended well, with the child unhurt after the thief crashed the van, and the suspect was taken into custody.…charges of child endangerment need to be pressed to set an example, because no matter how often these types of things occur, other parents continue to leave their kids in similar situations. It takes just a few minutes to get your child out of a vehicle and bring him or her along with you on whatever errand needs running. Sure, it’s more convenient just to leave a child in the car and do the errand, unencumbered. However, child safety should trump inconvenience every time. Better a few extra minutes lost bundling a little one in and out of a vehicle than a lifetime of regret and what-ifs.”

The rationalizations in Skenazy’s defense begin with the title of her post, which is dishonest and in her own words, “dumb.” She is using moral luck as a defense, arguing that the sequence of events as they unfolded were merely unfortunate, and the mother just as easily could have returned to her van and car with nothing amiss. The odds favor nothing bad happening in six minutes; on the other hand, the odds of nothing bad happening are much better if a child isn’t in an unlocked vehicle with the engine running at all. Continue reading

Porn and the NFL: In Search of A Biased Referee

With condoms, what, 2.5 X’s?

55% of California voters decided yesterday to make porn stars wear condoms on the job—good for their health, bad for the health of the state’s booming XXX film industry. It is a reasonable guess that injecting condoms into the proceedings will put California’s porn products at a significant competitive disadvantage, and also a reasonable guess that the voters who enacted the measure couldn’t care less. So legal enterprises may go bust, their employees may lose their careers, and consumers may lose a form of entertainment they crave because of the policy priorities of those who hold all three in low regard, and who are unlikely to apply any kind of balancing standard. It’s safer for all concerned to require condoms, that’s all. Porn companies, porn careers, porn lovers—who cares about what they want? Continue reading

Happy Meal Ethics and the Heart Attack Grill

The Heart Attack Grill, in Phoenix, Arizona, has a medical theme, in keeping with its name. Waitresses dress in skimpy nurses’ uniforms; customers, who come to gorge themselves on super-high calorie fare like Double Bypass Burgers and lard-fried french fries, wear hospital gowns over their clothes and are referred to as patients. The menu features no diet drinks. The new “model” for the Grill is Blair River, a former high school wrestler who stands 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 600 pounds (he’s also a financial adviser at the University of Phoenix.) River now has a $100-an-hour contract to pose for ads and TV commercials for the establishment, including a recent YouTube video which invites anyone over 350 pounds to eat for free. And, apparently, if you are over 500 pounds, they pay you. Continue reading