Category Archives: Science & Technology

Comment of the Day: “Hoping That Future Presidential Candidates Won’t Be Asked About Whether They Would Kill Baby Trump”


Let’s get the day off to a light-hearted beginning, since it is sure to go rapidly downhill.

I love this comment by Ethics Alarms’ favorite squid, Extradimensional Cephalopod. I wish I had written it, and in fact started out to do so during the brief outbreak of Republican Presidential candidates being asked by silly reporters looking for a “gotcha!” whether they would murder Baby Adolf Hitler if they could go back in time. It is an ethics question, after all. My idea was to speculate on the possible results of such a mission using pop culture, science fiction and serious physics theories, but I rapidly discovered that a lot of research would be necessary, and the ethics nexus was deteriorating quickly. Thus I was thrilled to see EC boldly go where my boldness had failed me.

Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Hoping That Future Presidential Candidates Won’t Be Asked About Whether They Would Kill Baby Trump.”

[I do have one question: is “Back to the Future” now the favored label for the category of time travel story where someone changes the future by altering the past? Not “The Terminator” or Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever”? In “Back to the Future II”, we are told that altering the past creates a parallel alternate future, which I assume means that killing Baby Hitler just means that Hitler goes on his merry way, except in the new, improved, no-Hitler parallel universe. Come to think of it, “The Terminator” movies, last I checked (but I dropped out two sequels and a TV spin-off ago), suggested that the future can’t be changed, though those robots in Future Hell seem to think so.  Right?

See, this is why I gave up the first time. Heeeeeeeeere’s Extradimensional Cephalopod! Continue reading


Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Science & Technology

The Definition Of Irresponsible Leadership? Obama’s Keystone Pipeline Call

keystone-pipelineI am trying to find another example of a U.S. President taking action that harms the nation and its citizens while admitting that it will have no measurable beneficial effects whatsoever.

I can’t find any. I’d like to know about one, and see how it worked out.

When the Washington Post’s editorial staff essentially calls a Democratic President’s conduct an embarrassment. it really must have been embarrassing…and it was. Obama’s sole explanation for his decision, which he has, as is his style, dithered over for years, was this:

“Ultimately if we’re going to prevent large parts of the Earth from becoming inhospitable or uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them.”

But killing the pipeline will keep no fossil fuels in the ground. So the reason really is this:

“America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious actions to fight climate change and, frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership.”

Ah. So America will show it is serious about climate change by killing a project that all agree will have no tangible, long-term, short-term, measurable effects on climate change at all. This is Obama logic, as we have seen many times: good intentions is enough; results don’t matter. If his decision won’t help reduce the risk of parts of the Earth  becoming “inhospitable or uninhabitable in our lifetimes”—a risk that is also measurable and speculative at best—then the purpose of it isn’t to prove leadership. True, it proves atrocious leadership, but Obama is cynical, not stupid. The decision is political. Its only tangible benefit is to the Democratic Party, which feels the need to make the welfare of the U.S. and its citizens subordinate to the fanaticism of the environmentalist movement. Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Science & Technology

Debate Questions No Democrat Will Ever Be Asked (1): “You and President Obama Claim That Climate Change Is Settled Science To The Extent That The United States Should Burden Industry With Expensive And Job Threatening Mandates To Curb It. Explain Your Certitude On This Despite NASA’s Discovery That Antarctica Is Actually Gaining Ice?”


The recent report from NASA regarding increasing levels of ice in Antarctica shows beyond any reasonable doubt that climate science is not “settled.” Any scientist who says so is playing politics,  lying, or both; any politician who says so is not very bright or lying. If the science were settled, NASA, whose leadership has crossed many lines of honesty and objectivity by over-hyping climate change research, would not publish studies whose authors have explain them by saying  things like this, from Jay Zwally, NASA glaciologist and lead author of the study:

…”The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away But this is also bad news. If the 0.27 millimeters per year of sea level rise attributed to Antarctica in the IPCC report is not really coming from Antarctica, there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for.”

…In noting that it could take only a few decades for the ice melt in Antarctica to outweigh the ice gains: “I don’t think there will be enough snowfall increase to offset these losses.”

…“We’re essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge. Our main disagreement is for East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica; there, we see an ice gain that exceeds the losses in the other areas.”

Does that sound “settled” to you? Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

The Gangolf Jobb Affair: When The Only Tool You Have Is A Hammer…You Can End Up Looking Pretty Silly

"HA! Just what I need to stop illegal immigration!"

“HA! Just what I need to stop illegal immigration!”

Meet Gangolf Jobb, a German scientist, and the inventor of Treefinder.  Treefinder is often used in  scientific papers to build “phylogenetic trees,” which are  diagrams that showing the most likely evolutionary relationship of various species, from sequence data. He is angry at nations that, in his view, are endangering capitalism and the world by allowing too many migrants and immigrants to cross their boarders. So to punish such countries, including the U.S., he is  revoking the license to Treefinder of scientists in Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Denmark, and the United States.

There are many things wrong with this solution. Most of all, it is unjust. I think I might be able to come up with something less related to immigration and refugee policy than phylogenetic trees, but it would be a challenge. What is the point, not to mention the logic—and this guy is a scientist!—of punishing an elite group of scientists for what their native politicians are doing? The victims of Jobb’s indignation have no special power in this matter, don’t involve themselves in it, and don’t advance it by misuse of his software. This is warped accountability and responsibility; it is like kicking your dog because you are mad at the neighbors. Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology

Democratic Candidate Debate Integrity Watch: Will Anderson Cooper Make Hillary Defend Her Unethical Private E-Mail? Will Her Opposition?

HillaryClinton phone

The Democratic Party is in the process of ridiculing democracy at work on the other side of the aisle, as it seems to be emulating the Communist Party, USSR style. Its pre-anointed nominee for President, Hillary Clinton, is being exposed—exposing herself, really—as a liar, as incompetent, as a terrible campaigner and as possessing no core values (but she’s a fighter!), and yet her alleged rivals refuse to call her to account on the issue that has revealed so many of her deficits, the private e-mail server. The party is limiting debates to protect her from the public realization that she’s a dud, and Democratic talking points keep surfacing to confuse and distract regarding the e-mail issue. The story was broken by the New York Times, the lies were authored by the Clinton campaign team, and the irregularity was sufficient to spark an ongoing FBI investigation, yet everyone from Clinton’s surrogates, loyal pundit supporters and the candidate herself—and her Deceit Sensei husband—continue to represent the matter as a GOP concoction.

The evidence is strong that CNN, which hosts tonight’s debate, is in on the fix. Here’s an exchange from last week between CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield and Democratic strategist, a.k.a Hillary Clinton strategist, Robert Zimmerman:

BANFIELD: But you’ve got to – you’ve got to admit, Robert, that the Republicans are delivering any script that – that Bernie Sanders may need to go after [Hillary] Clinton. What’s her ammo against Bernie Sanders?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, here’s the deal: any Democrat who resorts to reciting Republican talking points is going to hurt themselves amongst the grassroots-

BANFIELD: So you’re saying you don’t think he’s ever going to touch the e-mail scandal – or, it’s not even a scandal-It’s really a controversy. But ‘scandal’ is the Republicans’ word for it-


BANFIELD: So far, no one has determined there’s any scandal there.

ZIMMERMAN: Of course not! And I think Senator Sanders is too fine a person to engage in reciting Republican talking points like that. But there will be debates around issues; debates around policy; and it’s going to be pretty exciting. This is going to be an historic debate, because CNN’s present – really, bringing the Democrats to the nation for the first time.

Some notes on this disgraceful example of a journalist behaving as a partisan flack:

Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Science & Technology

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


Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Facebook, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Weekend Comment of the Day #2: “The VW Scandal: Huge Consequences, Simple Ethics Lessons, Ominous Implications”

GermanFlagVWThe second Comment of the Day, from prolific commenter Michael R, explores how the Volkswagen plot may have been nourished by industry-crushing over-regulation.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “The VW Scandal: Huge Consequences, Simple Ethics Lessons, Ominous Implications”:

This scandal is worse that you present it. When you look at it, our government encourages such conduct. When you look at what happened, it sure looks like our wonderful Democrats hate the United States and the companies and working Americans. In 1998, the government went after US diesel manufacturers for a less-devious defeat device (it seems that it worked only when the engine was under strain and the emission controls worked at least some of the time during normal operation). They were fined and had to pay for environmental remediation to the tune of $1 billion. The software was not as essential to the running of the engines as VW’s, as the companies were able to make the engines compliant with a software fix.

Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Science & Technology