Category Archives: Science & Technology

Rationalization Pop Quiz: What Do Barry Bonds And Elizabeth Warren Have In Common?

I wonder how many strategy sessions it took for the supporters and enablers of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) to come up with their latest defense of her ongoing lie that she is part Cherokee? We know it’s a lie now—a deliberate misrepresentation designed to deceive—because the Bay State crypto-socialist has refused the obvious resolution of taking a DNA ancestry test….again. You know she’s taken at least one, and maybe more. Being able to wave scientific proof that she had Native  American ancestors after all the “Fauxahontas” jibes would be a political bonanza for Warren, and solve her most daunting public relations problem outside of my home state, the Land of Michael Curley, where corruption, lies and letting young women drown don’t put a dent in your popularity or vote totals, for some reason. Sure, Warren took the test. She probably took another one just in case it was wrong….and she still doesn’t have the integrity or courage to admit her lie.

And that, now and forever, is why her Cherokee fantasy matters. It shows that Warren lies, and lacks integrity. It shows that she was willing to use a falsehood to gain traction in university employment competitions where gender, race and minority status often made all the difference….even if it meant that a real minority candidate failed because of her subterfuge.

Yet those strategy sessions yielded this defense on Warren’s behalf: according to an investigation by the Boston Globe, Warren’s fake Cherokee claim wasn’t a factor in her hiring by Harvard Law School:

The Globe examined hundreds of documents, many of them never before available, and reached out to all 52 of the law professors who are still living and were eligible to be in that Pound Hall room at Harvard Law School. Some are Warren’s allies. Others are not. Thirty-one agreed to talk to the Globe — including the law professor who was, at the time, in charge of recruiting minority faculty. Most said they were unaware of her claims to Native American heritage and all but one of the 31 said those claims were not discussed as part of her hire. One professor told the Globe he is unsure whether her heritage came up, but is certain that, if it did, it had no bearing on his vote on Warren’s appointment.

Perhaps the editors and journalists at the Globe never heard of moral luck, but I bet at least some of those law professors comprehend the concept. Whether or not Warren’s deliberate lie and misrepresentation of her ancestry actually was a factor in her hiring at Harvard was pure chance, and occurred after Warren had embraced a false identity. Once she did that, the consequences were out of her control. Her lie doesn’t become less unethical because it didn’t have any effect after the fact of it. A lot of people have trouble grasping this basic ethical concept, but it isn’t that hard. A person who drops a bowling ball from a bridge onto an express way is just as irresponsible and reckless if the ball misses every thing as he would be if the ball caused a ten car pile-up and the death of ten. He’s just as bad either way, and the rest is all luck. The same is true of Warren’s affirmative action-courting lie. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, Science & Technology, Sports

From The Ethics Alarms “Be Afraid…Be Very Afraid” Files: Fake Maps From Google

Nah, Google doesn’t abuse its power 0r manipulate information for a political agenda! Why would anyone suggest such a thing?

Chuck Schumer suggested that the Senate Office Building, currently named after the late Senator Richard Russell, 1897-1971, a Georgia Democrat who served in the Senate for almost 40 years, be re-named in honor of the late John McCain.

It’s a good suggestion. Russell was an adamant white supremacist, and opposed, unapologetically, civil rights measures his whole career. I’ve been rather surprised that the building’s name wasn’t changed long before, when Democrats controlled the Senate. Why didn’t the Democrats try to get Russell replaced by Edward Kennedy’s name, for example?

Go ahead, guess why.

But it’s not Google’s role to lobby for the change, or worse, to make it unilaterally, as it did today on Google Maps. This was especially bad—but helpful!– timing for the giant tech company, as it is under fire for political bias by the President, who tweeted that the search engine was “rigged,” and Congress, and Google’s CEO just refused to be questioned on the Hill.  These companies, like Facebook, Amazon and Twitter,  are arrogant beyond all measure, drunk with their growing power, and ethically inert. You can regard this episode as just a funny glitch if you like.

I think it’s an inadvertent warning.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Science & Technology, The Internet

Ominous Anti-Free Speech Quote Of The Year: U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik

“The Court declines to wade through these issues based on the limited record before it and instead presumes that the private defendants have a First Amend ment right to disseminate the CAD files. That right is currently abridged, but it has not been abrogated. Regulation under the AECA means that the files cannot be uploaded to the internet, b ut they can be emailed, mailed, securely transmitted, or otherwise published within the United States. The Court finds that the irreparable burdens on the private defendants’ First Amendment rights are dwarfed by the irreparable harms the States are likely to suffer if the existing restrictions are withdrawn and that, overall, the public interest strongly supports maintaining the status quo through the pendency of this litigation.”

—U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik, in his preliminary injunction issued today blocking the federal government from allowing publication of the blueprints of 3-D printable guns.

The injunction will stand until final resolution of the multi-state lawsuit seeking to keep the blueprints offline. Lasnik had issued a temporary restraining order in the case July 31, prompting this post, which states the Ethics Alarms position still:

“It sure sounds like prior restraint to me, and I suspect, when this gets to the Supreme Court, which it inevitably will, that will be the conclusion.

This began as one more example of the Obama Administration playing fast and loose with the Bill of Rights. Now, it may well be, as the suit by the states alleges, that the Trump Administration didn’t handle its legal U-turn properly, it being, after all, the Trump Administration. Nonetheless, the government blocking the online publication of information, which is what a blueprint is, when no copyrights, patents or trademarks are being violated or national secrets revealed, seems like a pretty clear First Amendment violation.”

If Lasnik’s langauge about “abridged, but it has not been abrogated” doesn’t send chills down your spine, I guess that means you’re a typical progressive or Democrat these days. The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,” meaning that the judge here admits that his ruling and the law suit are efforts to cut another chunk out of our core national values. But hey, it’s all cool! The ends justify the means, and we all know that guns are bad. That Second Amendment thingy? Once we take down the First, the Second will be a piece of cake.

As was discussed at length in the excellent thread on the previous post, it’s a long, long way, not just from May to December, but also from having the blueprint of a #-D printable gun and actually having a gun. Does the judge full comprehend that? I doubt it very much. If there is one theme that runs through judicial decisions and opinion involving rapidly evolving technology, it is that most judges and too many lawyers don’t understand the technology well-enough to regulate it or make coherent policy.

I still think this is such an obvious example of prior restraint that the Supreme Court will knock it down, especially after Kavanaugh joins the Court, and I hope I am wrong that the anti-Second Amendment liberal wing will unite in dissent, but I believe that is likely.

Sigh.

Ought I to say this? What the hell….

I am increasingly coming to believe that what is really at stake in the upcoming elections is the Bill of Rights, and perhaps our democracy itself.  The “resistance’s” attempt to undo the election of President Trump is just part of a long-term, concerted assault on our institutions, by a growing faction that believes that freedom and liberty are too dangerous to be left in the wrong hands, and must be constrained—abridged, so to speak—by those who know best.

Them.

________________________

Pointer and Source: ABA Journal

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Science & Technology

“Authentic Frontier Gibberish” Of The Year: Stevie Wonder

“This thing I just feel that all these various diseases that we have and all these things that are happening in the world in part is because there are those who don’t believe in global warming, don’t believe that what we do affects the world. what we eat affects the world. and affects us.And I just hope that people will grow up and grow out of the foolishness and know that we all by how we think how we do how we treat others we will never unlock the key until we truly let go the hatred the bigotry the evilness the selfishness when we do that then we can unlock some of those things that keep us in this place.”

—Pop legend Stevie Wonder, explaining why Aretha Franklin died, or something, on “CBS This Morning”

Why is this unethical? It’s irresponsible for celebrities with the education of prunes and the critical thinking facility of  baby ocelots to make their fans and anyone else afflicted with the delusion that being famous equates  to being wise dumber than they already are. Shut up and sing, Stevie. Aretha died of pancreatic cancer, and if you can prove that this deadly disease is linked to global warming, let’s see your research data.

It is also unethical for any TV news host who listens to a guest utter incoherent nonsense like this not to respond, “What the hell are you babbling about?” or words to that effect. Opinions are fine, and, withing limits, can be endured without rebuttal. Non-factual crap, like global warming causing cancer—actually, Stevie literally said that people not believing in global warming causes cancer, like not believing in fairies kills Tinkerbell.—has to be fixed, on the air, immediately. If you have dolts like Wonder on camera, you better be prepared to clean up the messes they leave.

Sad to say, Gabby Johnson made more sense than Stevie Wonder.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Quotes, Science & Technology

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up: Algorithms, The Beatles, Baseball, Football, And Omarosa

Good morning.

1.  More Scorpion-Frog Ethics. I refuse to do a full post on Omarosa, the latest slimy opportunist the mainstream media is suddenly treating as a trsutworthy source because she claims to have dirt to spill on President Trump. To ist credit, NPR is at least flagging her sliminess, in a post titled “Omarosa Tells NPR She Heard Trump ‘N-Word Tape,’ Contradicting Her Own Tell-All Book.”

As I wrote regarding Manigault Newman previously (and the same applies to Michael Cohen), one can be nauseated by the disloyalty, dishonesty and venality of such scum and still have little sympathy for their victim, Trump, who was a fool to trust such obviously untrustworthy individuals, give them influences, notoriety and power they are unfit to have, and still claim to be hiring and appointing “the best people.”

The same sentiment applies to the biased, obsessed and incompetent news media. If journalists keep presenting present the likes of Omarosa, Cohen, Stormy Daniels, Michael Wolff, and, yes, James Comey, as credible first-hand Trump accusers, how can they expect the public to take any legitimate future accusers seriously, should any appear? Their predecessors will have all been obvious publicity-seekers, shake-down artists, motivated by personal agendas or greed, and obviously so. The news media, meanwhile, undermines its own credibility—what little remains–by so eagerly treating these tarnished sources as if they were not what they so obviously are.

2. They’re baaaack!. The NFL’s pre-season games are underway, and what do you know? The players are kneeling again, protesting during the National Anthem in what they deny is a protest of the National Anthem in what the news media regularly calls the “National Anthem protests.”  Wait, what’s that protest about, exactly? The New York Times has settled on “social inequality and police brutality.” And what do they mean? Here’s the latest interpretation by one of the most prominent Kneelers, Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles:

“Before we enjoy this game lets take some time to ponder that more than 60% of the prison population are people of color. The NFL is made up of 70% African Americans. What you witness on the field does not represent the reality of everyday America. We are the anomalies…”

Anomalies because they aren’t in jail? That sounds rather racist to me. Anomalies because they make millions of dollars? Are the Kneelers saying that all African Americans should be making a lot of money? That prison populations should be representative of the same demographic percentages as the public as a whole? Is he calling for affirmative action in the courts (social justice, I guess) or claiming that the large black prison population is caused by police brutality?  That’s funny: I assume that it is because a disproportionate number of blacks are committing crimes. Is that their fault, or the fault of NFL ticket-holders? This remains the most incoherent, self-indulgent protest ever, and one that prompted one of the President’s more accurate tweets–-two, in fact:

The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love………..Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!

That last part relates to the also incoherent NFL policy on kneeling during the anthem. On this, Jenkins told Philly.com, “Quite frankly, guys in our league don’t like being told what to do, what they can and can’t do. We don’t have this type of policies for the other causes we support, whether it be our ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, or anything else. It’s just when you start talking about black folks, quite frankly. It’s disheartening, but we’ll continue to be creative.”

Huh? Employers in all professions and occupations tell employees what to do, and on-the-job protests disrupting the workplace are universally forbidden. (I know you guys are “anomalies,” Malcolm, but you still collect a paycheck…) Do these players really not see the distinction between engaging in a league-approved promotion like ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, and a wildcat protest that annoys and insults paying customers? Is anyone going to fact-check that misleading statement,  as someone like Snopes undoubtedly will, regarding the President’s mistaken claim that “most of that money goes to the players”?

Then, “quite frankly,” we get the race card. Of course! “When all else fails…”

Does anyone seriously believe that if only white football players were protesting during the National Anthem, nobody would object? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Quotes, Race, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, Sports, Workplace

Jason Werth, The Shift, And How Baseball Imitates Life, Not In A Good Way

Today’s example from baseball of why the world will never get less stupid:  Jayson Werth, the former firebrand outfielder for the Phillies and Nationals who retired from  professional baseball in June (about a year too late, based on his miserable 2017 performance), blathered on in a podcast interview espousing ignorance over knowledge.

“They’ve got all these super nerds, as I call them, in the front office that know nothing about baseball but they like to project numbers and project players… I think it’s killing the game. It’s to the point where just put computers out there. Just put laptops and what have you, just put them out there and let them play. We don’t even need to go out there anymore. It’s a joke….When they come down, these kids from MIT or Stanford or Harvard, wherever they’re from, they’ve never played baseball in their life…When they come down to talk about stuff like [shifts] … should I just bunt it over there? They’re like, ‘No, don’t do that. We don’t want you to do that. We want you to hit a homer.’ It’s just not baseball to me. We’re creating something that’s not fun to watch. It’s boring. You’re turning players into robots. They’ve taken the human element out of the game.”

Back in the late 1970’s, a man named Bill James, blessed with an amazing ability to look at problems without the pollution of conventional wisdom began writing a little publication in his spare time down in his basement that examined how baseball was played, what practices statistics supported, and which they did not. He revealed, to take just one example, that managers were habitually batting as lead-off players who were speedy runners but who didn’t get on base very often because they never walked. This almost universal practice cost teams runs and victories. He showed that a player with a .300 average who seldom took a base on balls was a less effective offensive weapon than a player with a much  lower batting average but a higher on-base-percentage, the result of being more selective at the plate.  Somehow this obvious observation had never occurred to anyone whose actual profession was managing baseball teams.

Every year, and in articles in between for journals and statistical publications, James proved over and over again that baseball was being played astoundingly ignorantly. A “great” base stealer who only was successful 70% of the time was costing his team runs, because the statistics show that  the the risk of an out is usually a far greater cost than the extra base is a benefit. The sacrifice bunt is almost always a bad percentage play, increasing the odds of scoring one run slightly, but greatly reducing the chances of scoring more than one. A player’s statistics were vastly influenced by the quirks and dimensions of his home park, creating illusions of abilities and flaws that were mirages.Virtually all baseball players reach their peak value at the ages of 27-29, and decline rapidly thereafter: James wrote that paying big salaries for 30-years-old-plus stars was a losing gamble, comparing it to buying a watermelon at a premium price after the previous owner has eaten the fruit’s heart out and pronounced it delicious.

I began reading James books in the 80’s, and found him to be a truly original and courageous thinker. (The concept and term “signature significance,” an Ethics Alarms staple, comes from James.)  From the beginning, however, his research was ridiculed by front office executives, managers and player, many of whom were challenging his research on the basis of a limited intellect, a high school degree and statistical knowledge that consisted of reading box scores. They appealed to authority—their own—to refuse to acknowledge indisputable, mathematical, logical realities. Eventually one or two young turks did pay attention, like Oakland’s Billy Beane. He hired  his own numbers-cruncher and used the principles of the fledgling discipline James helped launch, sabermetrics, the statistical analysis of baseball, to win championships with a minimal budget. It also got him a book written about his success, “Moneyball,” and a movie based on the book where Beane was played by Brad Pitt.

Sweet! Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Dunces, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “Look! Computer Professionals Have An Ethics Code!”

There were eight comments on the July 18 post about the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) ethics code, and four of them were Comment Of The Day-worthy. In addition to the chosen honoree here by Alex, I highly recommend the related comments by Glenn Logan, mariedowd, and Windypundit.

This is an Ethics Alarms record, and speaks volumes about the quality of commentary here.

This is Alex’s Comment of the Day on the post, Look! Computer Professionals Have An Ethics Code!

As a member of the ACM for the past 18 years, I did review earlier drafts and submitted comments. I was especially critical of the vagueness, but in general welcomed the update, as the old code was pretty outdated by now.

I did not think about the enforcement mechanism, but that is because I still don’t see Software Engineering/Programming as a profession. This has been a very contentious point for years. On the one hand, “hackers” (I use this in the original sense of the word, as it describes a very common ethos in the occupation) are terribly skeptical of any authority, and pride themselves that you can become a proficient programmer without formal training. Funny enough, programmers subscribing to this point of view are very supportive of apprenticeships and mentoring… go figure.

On the other hand, corporations will *strongly* resist any sort of licensing, and use the current, informal, certification system as a first filter only. Formal requirements would make software engineers more expensive and possibly lead to some system to deal with liability. Much better to keep to current system with the ability to outsource to the lowest bidder. Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Professions, Science & Technology, U.S. Society