Category Archives: Science & Technology

Hillary Gets Caught In A (nother) Whopper

Why yes, this IS the thanks you get, General!

Why yes, this IS the thanks you get, General!

From the New York Times (Aug. 18):

Pressed by the F.B.I. about her email practices at the State Department, Hillary Clinton told investigators that former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell had advised her to use a personal email account.The account is included in the notes the Federal Bureau of Investigation handed over to Congress on Tuesday, relaying in detail the three-and-a-half-hour interview with Mrs. Clinton in early July that led to the decision by James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, not to pursue criminal charges against her.

From Page Six:

Colin Powell has broken his silence about his alleged involvement in the Hillary Clinton email scandal, saying her team is falsely trying to blame him.When asked by the FBI about her email use at the State Department, Clinton reportedly told investigators that former Secretary of State Powell had advised her to use a personal email account at a private dinner. But Powell, who had said last week in a statement that he had no recollection of the conversation, told Page Six at Saturday’s Apollo in the Hamptons event, “The truth is she was using it (her personal email) for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did [during my term as secretary of state]. “Her people have been trying to pin it on me.”

When asked why Clinton’s team were attempting to blame him, he responded, “Why do you think?”

Conclusion: Hillary Clinton lied to the F.B.I.

Ethics musings: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump, Workplace

A Deft And Appropriate Rebuke To Climate Change Hysteria

FLASHBACK: Jonestown combats climate change

FLASHBACK: Jonestown combats climate change

On her blog, Ann Althouse delivered a devastating and ethically profound defenestration to Jennifer Ludden, a  correspondent for NPR’s “All Things Considered” who delivered a mad feature she called “Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?”  Now, the very question is incompetent and irresponsible, as it treats a speculative future event—she even admits that it is speculative!–of unknown cause, arrival, duration and seriousness as the equivalent of certain nuclear war or a zombie apocalypse. The essay and her attitude represent hysteria, cowardice, scare-mongering and an insufficient appreciation for the importance of continuing the species, or at least having people smart enough to spell “climate change” contributing to the gene pool so “Planet of the Apes” doesn’t become reality. No, the pre-emptive extinction of the human race is not a rational response to the problems posed by climate change, Jennifer, and why the hell are my tax dollars being wasted to hire people who want people to think it is?

That would be my crude response to this cretinous piece. Ann Althouse, however, is far cleverer, constructive, less confrontational and effective in her response, which in its own way is more damning than mine. She launches from this quote from the NPR piece:

“I said to [my children], ‘I hope you never have children,’ which is an awful thing to say. It can bring me to tears easily,” said 67-year-old Nancy Nolan, who had children before she learned found out about climate change.”

Prof. Althouse, contrary to my inclination, doesn’t counter with, “Oh? And what did you ‘find out,’ Nancy? Here are computer printouts of climate trends and projections from five different models. Which is correct? Explain it to me, please. Show me you understand what the hell you’re talking about that is so devastating that you wish your children had never been born, you silly, silly twit!”

Instead, she writes,

If anybody really cares about carbon emissions, stop your crying and be hard-headed about what emits carbon. It’s not the person per se, but what the person does. Back in 2010, I made a list of changes you could make to your behavior. No air conditioning isn’t on the list, because that is already a given. If you haven’t done that yet, Nancy and the Weepers, you are crying crocodile tears. So get up and switch that off. Forever. And now, read my list:

It includes such “common sense’ advice as this…

“Do not go anywhere you don’t have to go. When there is no food in the house to make dinner, instead of hopping in the car to go to the grocery store or a restaurant, take it as a cue to fast. As noted above, your weight should be at the low end of normal, and opportunities to reach or stay there should be greeted with a happy spirit.”

I won’t include any more here. The professor’s clear message: why don’t you make some sacrifices yourself rather than condemn the species to extinction?

Read the whole thing on her blog. Ann earned the click.

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Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Pokémon Go Ethics: Beware The Terms Of Service Agreement!

pokemon-go-starters

I had a hard time finding anything unethical about Pokémon Go, the smartphone GPS scavenger hunt game that sends players all over the landscape to find and trap those adorable Japanese monsters that caused a trading card craze and more a decade ago. (I assume that anything that seems really dumb is likely to have ethics problems. You’d be amazed how often I’m right.) It seems benign. The game can be good exercise, it’s engaging for people who have no more productive avocation, and best of all, it gives American something to obsess about not named Bill or Hillary. There are some troubling signs: administrators at the National Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery felt that they needed to ask visitors not to play the game while contemplating the murder of six million Jews and the fallen heroes of foreign ways—what is these spoilsports’ problem?—and some people are letting the game endanger themselves and others, leading to these morons falling off a cliff, causing this idiot to drive  his car into a tree, and prompting this in Arizona…

Pokemon go traffic sign

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Science & Technology, The Internet, U.S. Society

McAfee And Me: An Ethics Rant

I have written here before about my theory that the needless complexity of life, especially involving daily interactions with technology, are driving normal people crazy, and sometimes homicidally crazy. While activists and justly alarmed citizens point to guns and mental health policies to explain murderous rampages by citizens previously regarded as quite and law abiding, insufficient attention is being paid to the ratcheting-up of daily stresses caused by the private and public sectors gratuitously making  daily life unbearably frustrating to navigate, particularly for the less skilled navigators among us.

I don’t expect to snap, but you never know. It is said, I assume apocryphally, that there was a sick drawing New Yorker black humor cartoonist Charles Addams would send to his editor when he was about to have one of his periodic breakdowns, and the magazine would see that he was deposited in his favorite sanitarium in a timely fashion. If you read the message  “AGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGZZZZZKKKKKAAAAARHHHHHYY!”-and nothing else--in a future post, you will know that I have gone full Sweeney Todd (Sweeney in his fury and grief determined that half the human race were so cruel and corrupt that they deserved to die, and that they made the other half so miserable that it was merciful to murder them too) and my immediate neighborhood is in mortal danger. Call the police. I don’t have a gun, but I don’t need one: I’m pretty good with a baseball bat.

If and when that happens, something like my experience yesterday will be the cause.

I have a new netbook, and it included a free 30 day trial subscription to McAfee’s virus protection service. For a week I had been getting obtrusive pop-up ads from McAfee telling me that my protection was about to lapse and my opportunity to purchase a special discounted continuation of the service (Just $39.99, marked down from $89.99!) would soon evaporate. Yesterday was the expiration date, so I decided to accept the offer and sign up online.

I checked the appropriate boxes and filled in all the information, including the credit card data. The attempt to pay was rejected, the screen told me, for my security code, that little three digit number on the back of the card, was incorrect. So I reentered it, after checking it carefully. After much churning and two “preparing your order” screens, I again got the error message. Huh. I tried again. Same thing.

This provoked a mature explosion quite familiar to my wife and dog (the dog hid under the bed), in which I cursed all online purchase, subscription and registration procedures, which inevitably take far longer than they are supposed to, are so complicated that they invite human error, and appear to have been designed by Joseph Mengele as some kind of sadistic experiment. My wife sagely suggested that I try another credit card, since the one I was using had recently been the object of a bank screw-up that ate another several hours of my rapidly dwindling life span. This I did…four times. Every time, the security code was flagged as entered wrongly, which it was not. Finally, I used a third card. Again, no dice, “incorrect data.”

The attempt to pay McAfee $39.99 had now taken about a half an hour. Continue reading

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California’s High Speed Rail Fiasco

The question posed by the unfolding California high-speed rail cataclysm is why the reaction to it should be a partisan or ideological issue at all. Are human beings capable of managing bias and learning hard truths from new information, or aren’t they?

High speed rail was promoted in California  as a green and virtuous way to propel commuters  from San Francisco to Los Angeles along at 220 miles an hour, completing the trip in a about  two and a half hours. It was going to involve minimal tax-payer cash,  with  billions arriving from private investors. It would be profitable, not requires state subsidies and be much less expensive than flying. Thus enthused and enlightened,  53.7 percent of approved the plan and a $9.95 billion bond.

It was a scam, a hustle, and a pack of lies.  Virginia Postrel writes at Bloomberg…

“California’s high-speed rail project increasingly looks like an expensive social science experiment to test just how long interest groups can keep money flowing to a doomed endeavor before elected officials finally decide to cancel it. What combination of sweet-sounding scenarios, streamlined mockups, ever-changing and mind-numbing technical detail, and audacious spin will keep the dream alive?”

Well said. I would add, “And will anyone learn from this fiasco?” Specifically, will anyone learn that ideologically-driven officials will always press policies in defiance of reality, if the public lets them, or more precisely, trusts them.

The Los Angeles Times published a stunning report on how corrupt this enterprise has been from the start. Here’s sample:
Continue reading

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Filed under Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Science & Technology

The “Ghostbusters” Remake Controversy

The fact that I even know about this issue is both my reward and punishment for being a popular culture junkie.

To bring you up to date: Since the stars of the classic movie comedy “Ghostbusters” are now collecting Social Security (and one of them—Harold Ramis— is dead), Hollywood’s only sensible option to try to squeeze some more profit out of the property (and maybe introduce it to a new generation) was to remake the 1984 film. This was a risky enterprise, for even the sequel with the original cast more or less recognizable was a disappointment, and remakes of classics are inherently dicey. If an original film really was special and the stars truly stars, forcing younger contemporary stars to step into iconic shoes is asking for not just trouble, but humiliation. Poor Alex Cord, for example, never recovered from being cast as The Ringo Kid in a misbegotten remake of  1939’s “Stagecoach,” where he was supposed to replace John Wayne. It can work, as with Jeff Bridges’ turn as Rooster Cogburn, not only a Wayne role but the one that got him an Oscar, only if the remake is sufficiently excellent and different enough in tone and purpose that the original and the remake can co-exist without compelling unflattering comparisons. (“True Grit I” is a funny John Wayne valedictory with a great story; “True Grit 2” is more faithful adaptation by the Coen Brothers of a wonderful novel. I still like the original better.)

The best option, though, is often to make the reboot different in appearance and feel by switching race or gender. This is also helpful when everyone over the age of 13 has seen the original on TV about ten times already. The scheme attracts a new audience, ideally—the first “Ghostbusters” had a male teen demographic—and allows the remake to refer to the first version without seeming like pale copy. Almost never are the non-traditional casting versions big hits, but they can be quietly profitable. “Ghostbusters,” moreover, is a merchandising machine. The original spawned cartoon versions and action figures. Why wouldn’t the new movie?

However this is 2016 America, and everything is political as well as partisan. An all-female remake of “Ghostbusters” was launched with feminist swagger. The new version starring Melissa McCarthy (love her) , Kristen Wiig (great)  and Kate McKinnon ( also great), excellent comic actresses, given good material, would show that women can and do everything men can do—fight ghosts, make hilarious supernatural movies, be President of the United States. The July opening in an election year was no coincidence; it is part of the Hollywood effort to join the media’s efforts to make Hillary President despite, well, her lack of fitness to lead.

Although the usual naysayers when a classic is recast were immediately critical, most moviegoers were enthusiastic about the project. I know I was. Then the trailer came out. It is bad (you can watch it above). We are used to seeing great trailers for movies that turn out to be boring and horrible, but good movies with terrible trailers are rare because making previews has become a fine art.

The strikingly unfunny “Ghostbusters” trailer was especially ominous for a comedy. The usual method for hyping a mediocre comedy is to put all the funny bits in the trailer; I hate that, don’t you? Not only is the whole movie an unamusing slog with 6 minutes of laughs in 90 minutes of filler, but you’ve already seen the best gags. What does it say, though, when a trailer for an alleged comedy isn’t funny, and worse, the gags included don’t appear to be as side-splitting as the movie’s makers seem to think they are?

Oh-oh. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Science & Technology

Johnny Manziel’s Lawyer’s E-Mail Ethics Disaster

email mistake

In an article last year inspired by increased attention in the legal profession prompted by Hillary Clinton’s epic incompetence handling her e-mail, New York’s Legal Ethics Reporter last year published “Ethical Implications & Best Practices for Use of Email.” It began with a quiz:

Which of the following statements are true?

A. Email is a wonderful tool for the successful practice of law.

B. Email not only saves time and money, but also allows for prompt communication with clients, colleagues, and opposing counsel.

C. Email is overused, often results in incomplete or inaccurate responses to inquiries, and fills up your Inbox with useless information.

D. Careless use of email can subject the sending lawyer to embarrassment, unhappy clients, lost income, breach of the duty of confidentiality, discipline, or claims of malpractice.

E. All of the above.

The correct answer is E— All of the above.

One reason lawyers are, as a group, far less forgiving of Hillary’s nonsense (and lies) is that her conduct, if it involved a client, and not just a relatively minor institution like the U.S. State Department, would constitute a clear violation of  the ethics rules covering competence and confidentiality. (Let’s ignore, for now, the rules requiring honesty and the avoidance of conflicts of interest.). Work- and case-related e-mail must be handled with care, or disasters occur. One of the lawyers for disgraced ex-NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel just provided a lesson in how that can happen, and it is going directly into my next seminar.

Defense attorney Bob Hinton, representing  Manziel  in a hit-and-run case, accidentally sent an Associated Press reporter an e-mail intended for the athlete’s legal team. The misdirection appears to be the result of an auto-address feature that assumed whom Hinton wanted to communicate with based on the first few letters he typed.

In the memo, Hinton expresses exasperation at the extent of Manziel’s dependence on illegal drugs, and reveals that he has a receipt that shows Manziel may have spent more than $1,000 at a drug paraphernalia store just 15 hours after he was involved in the crash. “Heaven help us if one of the conditions is to pee in a bottle,”  the lawyer wrote. This is a problem, since Manziel is seeking a plea deal that almost certainly would require periodic drug tests. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Science & Technology, The Internet