Category Archives: Science & Technology

Inevitable, Unethical, Technological Incompetence By Our Governments

Hey, what could go wrong?

Hey, what could go wrong?

The legal profession is in the midst of an ethics crisis not of its own making. New technologies, including social media, have created opportunities for vastly improved legal services, to such an extent that the American Bar Association has decreed that an ethical, competent lawyer, must use them. It has also made it clear that using them carelessly to the detriment of clients is unethical as well. It all sounds reasonable, except for this: few lawyers are equipped by education, training or nature to be adept at technology. Worse, technology is now changing so fast that few lawyers can keep up with it.

Thus they make mistakes. Costly mistakes, disastrous mistakes, stupid mistakes, and there is no learning curve, because by the time lawyers understand and master a new technology, it is no longer new, and it has taken on a different form that requires them to start all over again. The ABA and other bar associations have acknowledged this through inaction. After numerous instances where their ethical guidelines regarding the use of technology were obsolete or wrong from the moment they were issued, these bodies have resorted to general edicts only, essentially saying, “You must master available legal practice technology, and you must not screw it up. Don’t ask us how, we’re as confused as you are.”

Gee, thanks.

Unfortunately, it is not just the legal profession that is in peril from technological overload, unrealistic expectations and the speed of innovation. Our various levels of governments are, if anything, in even worse peril from the same phenomenon.

One week ago, the Virginia State Board of Elections frantically voted to  decertify use of the AVS WinVote touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic voting machine, meaning that the machines, which were used by dozens of cities and towns in Virginia, are effectively banned. Virginia is holding primaries  just two months from now, so this has thrown those local governments into a panic. The decision was unavoidable, however, after a shocking a report that demonstrated that the machines could be hacked, and elections rigged, by a 12-year-old…that is, anyone with more technological expertise than local government officials.

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

Comment of the Day: “KABOOM! Head Exploded, Can’t Write, Don’t Need To: The FBI Forensic Scandal”

FBI 1

Long-time Ethics Alarms commenter Michael R. delivers another of his provocative and informative Comments of the Day, this time on the festering scandal that is prosecutor misconduct and abuses of due process in our criminal justice system. This kind of commentary justifies the existence of Ethics Alarms, in my view, regardless of what I may write here. It is a virtual template for what makes a Comment of the Day.

Here is Michael R’s COTD on the post, “KABOOM! Head Exploded, Can’t Write, Don’t Need To: The FBI Forensic Scandal”… Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology

Our Child-Abusing Schools: Prosecution For A Prank

"You changed your grade on the school computer, kid--that's the death penalty!"

“You changed your grade on the school computer, kid–that’s the death penalty!”

In Holiday, Florida, Paul R. Smith Middle School eighth-grader Domanik Green was suspended for breaking into the school computer system to  change the background on his teacher’s computer to feature a photo of two men kissing. Then school administrators decided that the punishment wasn’t enough. They had him charged with the felony of computer hacking, and the fourteen year old will be tried as an adult.

The only explanation I can come up with for stories like this is that the school administrators don’t like kids. This wasn’t some sophisticated hack, like the stuff Matthew Broderick did in “War Games.” He knew the teacher’s password (his last name), and just changed the background. Changing a teacher’s background on his computer is the 21st century equivalent of putting an uncomplimentary caricature of the teacher on the blackboard. Charging a teen with a felony for that is excessive and cruel.  Putting in his own claim to a share of the Fascist Disciplinarian of 2015 award was Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, who blathered, “Even though some might say this is just a teenage prank, who knows what this teenager might have done.”

Better shoot him, Chris, just to be safe. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology

Once Again, President Obama Displays His Aversion To Accountability

It's far from the only missing piece in the Obama leadership puzzle, but it's a big one...

It’s far from the only missing piece in the Obama leadership puzzle, but it’s a big one…

The so-called liberal news media (also called “the news media”) has largely ignored the implication of the President’s recent comments on the link between child health and climate change, but not every source. In a couple of recent interviews, Obama has attributed his determination to control global warming to a personal interest in childhood asthma.

A White House “fact sheet” on climate change notes that the percentage of Americans with asthma has “more than doubled’ in the last three decades [ I haven’t checked these statistics; as you know, the President fudges numbers frequently], and says that “climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital,” with those at greatest peril including children, the elderly, the poor, those who are ill and minority communities. “Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons, and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries,” the document informs us.

Speaking on ABC with chief health correspondent Dr. Richard Besser, the President connected climate change to a frightening Obama family episode. “Well you know, Malia had asthma when she was four, and because we had good health insurance, we were able to knock it out early,” the President said. The children of less successful parents, however, won’t be as lucky, Obama said. “It will be an all-around benefit to society if asthma can be curtailed.”

This is standard issue climate change fear-mongering, along with the convenient and cynical use of children to drive emotional responses from the public rather than allow them to rationally weigh facts, options, and the balancing of costs with benefits and risks. The entire climate change debate has been waged in this unethical manner, on both sides of the issue, and thus has been incompetent, irresponsible, and untrustworthy.

There is something else here, however.

USA Today makes a strong case that there was another more likely cause of Malia’s breathing problems: her father. Continue reading

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Filed under Science & Technology, Government & Politics, Around the World, Health and Medicine, Leadership, Environment, Character, Childhood and children

Now THIS Is An Unethical Lawsuit!

chuck.chuck_

A New Mexico appeals court has refused to overturn the summary judgment dismissal  of Arthur Firstenburg’s five-year-old lawsuit against his neighbor Raphaela Monribot, whom he had accused of causing him excruciating pain and discomfort by using her iPhone, a Wi-Fi connection, dimmer switches, and other electronic devices in her own home. Firstenburg says that he suffers from electromagnetic sensitivity, or EMS, an acute sensitivity to electronic radiation that doctors and and scientists almost unanimously (but not quite) believe doesn’t exist.

Because Monribot had the misfortune to live next door to this guy, she had to defend against a $1.43 million lawsuit that has racked up court costs of over $85,000, and heaven knows what in legal fees. Firstenburg is not paying for any of it because he is broke; his lawyer, Lindsay Lovejoy, had taken the case on a contingent fee basis. She decided the appeal was a lost cause: the plaintiff handled it himself.

This case will, I assume, become the new poster child for those favoring a “loser pays” system, a bad idea that would be godsend in abuses of the system like this one. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Science & Technology, The Internet, U.S. Society

Boycotting Dolce And Gabbana: Gays Becoming What They Once Hated Most

After centuries of oppression, Gays have finally achieved the right to openly be who they are as long as they don't piss of Elton John.

After centuries of oppression, Gays have finally achieved the right to openly be who they are as long as they don’t piss of Elton John.

Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce are Italian fashion design superstars, meaning that I pay no attention to them whatsoever, and don’t understand the priorities of anyone who does. Nonetheless, they have a rich and famous international clientele.. The two men were once romantic partners, but no longer; how they are just business and artistic partners, and continue to thrive.

Their thriving, however, has suffered from a self-inflicted setback. In an interview with the Italian magazine Panorama, the pair declared their lack of support for same-sex families with children created by in vitro fertilization.  “I am not convinced by those I call children of chemicals, synthetic children,” Dolce told the magazine. “Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.” Gabbana added, “The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”

The Horror: a non-conforming opinion from prominent gay fashion icons! Can’t have that! Lapsed pop superstar Elton John, who has two sons through in vitro fertilization with his husband, David Furnish, took the remarks as a personal attack and proclaimed a boycott of the Gabbana & Dolce label. “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic,’ ” Mr. John wrote on social media. “Shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at I.V.F. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce & Gabbana ever again.” Thus was born the hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana.”
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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex, Marketing and Advertising, Romance and Relationships, Science & Technology

Some Hillary E-Mail Ethics Test Results: Dowd, Carville, Maher, Whitehouse, Boxer, Huffington

F minusLast week I pointed out that the controversy over Hillary’s secret e-mail server and the various deceits and lies she has employed to justify is invaluable, not merely as further evidence of the character of the woman Democrats seem determine to stuff down America’s throat as the next President, but also as an integrity and values test for the politicians, elected officials, pundits and journalists who choose to publicly defend her…or not.

So it has been, and continues to be. Unfortunately, Republicans and reliably conservative pundits are disqualified from the test, as they would be condemning Hillary whether there was an ethical defense of her e-mails or not. They will end up on the right side of this issue by simply following their ideological proclivities, and thus deserve no credit for being incidentally correct.

Here is what you have to remember, however: the fact the Republicans and conservatives who reached their position on this issue without giving it any thought detest and distrust Hillary Clinton and are being, in some cases, unattractively gleeful about the scandal does not make Hillary’s defense any stronger. As I explained in the earlier posts, she has no legitimate defense, just spin, rationalizations and deceit. That’s why the e-mail incident challenges the non-Hillary haters to exhibit integrity.

I was tempted to exempt Democratic strategists and Clinton consultants from the test as well, since they are, in essence, paid liars. For anyone inclined to believe them, however, the fact that these people—Karen Finney, Donna Brazile, Lanny Davis, David Brock, James Carville— will go on national TV, look an interviewer and the American public in the eye and say what they know is false should prove that their level of trustworthiness is below sea level.

Carville, for example, gave a tour de force of rationalizations on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, making the recently popular argument that the Clinton’s just can’t get away with fudges and sneaks that other politicians do, and that this is so, so unfair.  Let’s go to the Rationalizations List! This is the Golden Rationalization (“Everybody does it”) squared by the #39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should I be the first?” (That argument is disingenuous, because the Clintons are not like everyone else. They have a long, ugly record of deception and rule-breaking. At this point, they cannot credibly claim, “We just made a mistake” —# 19 and #20. There is a pattern. Once a pattern is established, you have to be especially careful not to repeat it, or there is a rebuttable presumption that you can’t help yourself. Is it unfair to an alcoholic to make a bigger deal out of him coming home drunk than when an occasional drinker does the same thing?) Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Quotes, Science & Technology, The Internet, Workplace