Tag Archives: abuse of power

Should Google Be Trusted To Censor Websites According To What It Determines To Be “True”?

Here's irony for you: when Google says it can develop software to decide who's not telling the truth, it's lying.

Here’s irony for you: when Google says it can develop software to decide who’s not telling the truth, it’s lying.

Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil.” It’s well-debased by now: agreeing to help China censor the internet modeled  a non-existent distinction between “don’t be evil” and “don’t assist evil.” I’m not ready to call Google’s looming truth algorithm “evil,” but it is certainly sinister and dangerous.

Google’s search engine rose to dominate the field by using the number of incoming links to a web page to determine where it appears in search results. Pages that many other sites link to are ranked higher. “The downside is that websites full of misinformation can rise up the rankings, if enough people link to them,” says Newscientist.

Now a Google research team is altering the system to measure the trustworthiness of a page, rather than its web popularity. Instead of counting incoming links, the proposed new system would count the number of “incorrect” facts within a page. “A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy,” says the team. Each page will get its computer-determined Knowledge-Based Trust score, which the software will derive by tapping into Google’s  Knowledge Vault, a repository of what Google’s claims is Absolute Truth based on web consensus.  Web pages that contain contradictory information will be bumped down the rankings, so fewer minds will be warped by non-conforming information.

Naturally, the Left, assuming that its view of the universe is the unassailably correct and virtuous one, loves this idea. That should put that”climate change denialists” in their places–at the bottom of web searches. Says Salon, which never met a conservative argument that wasn’t a lie (NEVER met? Oh, oh. There goes Ethics Alarms down the search results!), “Even though the former program is just in the research stage, some anti-science advocates are upset about the potential development, likely because their websites will become buried under content that is, well, true.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, U.S. Society, Science & Technology, The Internet, Research and Scholarship

A New, Seductive And Sinister Way To Be Unethical: Shoplifter Extortion For Profit

CEC

If you are accused of shoplifting in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Houston, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, and a growing number of other cities, you may face an unexpected choice. If the store you were shopping in participates in a program operated by  the Utah-based Corrective Education Company, you will be asked to choose between talking to the police, with the risk of being arrested, or leaving the store without facing law enforcement, after you sign an admission of guilt and agree to pay $320 to take an online anti-shop-lifting course.

What??

Slate informs us that about 20,000 people around the country have faced versions of this dilemma since CEC began operations, and chose option B—enriching CEC, and the stores as well. The interesting approach was started by two Harvard Business School graduates—that figures—and is sold as a win-win-win-win:

“It saves retailers time that they would have to spend dealing with the police; it frees up law enforcement resources that could be spent on higher priority cases; it reduces the likelihood that a shoplifter will come back to the store to steal again; and it gives second chances to offenders who would otherwise be saddled with a criminal record for life.”

Right.

It’s unethical you know. I wonder if the company knows? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

Finalizing The Sadly Useful School Anti-Violence No-Tolerance Insanity Scale

Alas, the deadly pizza gun is only a #5 now...

Alas, the deadly pizza gun is only a #5 now…

In January 2013, I realized I had used “Now this is the worst example of insane no-tolerance school conduct that there can ever be!” multiple times, and that it was time to make some close calls. I asked readers to rank the following real examples of child abuse by schools, in which children of various ages were punished cruelly and excessively for harmless conduct that violated a poorly envisioned no-tolerance rule. This was the list:

1. Biting pizza into the shape of a gun.

2. Pointing a finger in the shape of a gun and saying “Bang!”

3. Threatening to shoot a student with a bubble gun.

4. A deaf child who makes the obvious sign-language symbol for gun,  to “say” his own name, because his first name is “Hunter”

5. Expelling a student and bringing charges of criminal assault for shooting another student with a spitball through a straw

6. Accidentally bringing a paring knife to school in a lunch box

7. Drawing a picture of your father holding a gun

8. Playing with a LEGO figure carrying a LEGO automatic weapon

9. Drawing a picture of a gun

10. Writing a poem about the Newtown shooting.

I  received a lot of responses on the blog, more off-site. I never published the final results, however, which also takes into consideration my own positions. Here, from most defensible to most insane, is the current order, and why each entry landed where it did: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Government & Politics, Rights, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Pop Ethics Quiz: Welcoming Rev. Talbert Swan, Late Passenger On The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck”

"OK, you can go, but we want everyone to know that the US Government thinks you're a racist and a murderer."

“OK, you can go, but we want everyone to know that the US Government thinks you’re a racist and a murderer.”

The Justice Department’s press release  yesterday regarding the final rejection of a civil rights charge against George Zimmerman was despicable and unprofessional, political, as everything Holder’s department has done from the beginning, unethical,and an abuse of its power and influence.

Raising this  issue adeptly is reader J. Houghton in his Comment of the Day on the post, Pop Ethics Quiz: Welcoming Rev. Talbert Swan, Late Passenger On The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck. He ends with a question; I’ll return to answer it.

I am curious about the statement by Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta that: “Our decision not to pursue federal charges does not condone the shooting that resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin and is based solely on the high legal standard applicable to these cases.” It seems almost like an unnecessary statement of the obvious, like, yes of course; this is a tragedy; mistakes were made; bad judgment happened; and somebody died needlessly. Of course, we all would hope that such tragedies “do not occur in the future” as the JD press release stated… ever! this is a most wonderful thought.

However, what exactly is it that the Justice Department does “not condone” ? Is it possible that General Gupta is suggesting that the Justice Department does not buy into the basic idea of shooting someone in self-defense if believed necessary to protect ones self, or perhaps she questions the basic idea of being legally allowed to carry a concealed handgun by permit for self-defense? Or is she questioning the wisdom of the Neighborhood Watch program which might encourage citizens to… God forbid… watch too closely the goings on in their neighborhoods? What exactly is it that the Justice Department does “not condone” in this particular case?

Not to say that the claim of “self-defense” is always justified… because it most assuredly is not. Nor am I defending in any way Zimmerman for the events that unfolded with very unfortunate results. But I am wondering about the chill this incredibly long and ultimately fruitless federal investigation might put on the fundamental right of self defense to protect ones self or others who might find themselves in the position of facing a real threat. Are citizens going to possibly face federal prosecution in the future for becoming “too involved” in the security of their own neighborhoods, or for protecting themselves or their neighbors if the unlawful aggressor and righteous defender in a specific incident happen to be of the “wrong” ethnicity or race?

Just asking…

Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race

Discrimination and Hypocrisy in Kansas

Something is seriously amiss in Kansas.

1. Using Taxpayer Funds To Clone The Cleavers

Beve, June, Wally, Ward...I'm so sorry you got pulled into this...

Beve, June, Wally, Ward…I’m so sorry you got pulled into this…

Are there conservatives who can’t see how hypocritical, presumptuous and wrong this is?

I know one who doesn’t, at least: Kansas State Sen. Forrest Knox ( R-Altoona), who has introduced  Senate Bill 158 . It will use the power of money to persuade  foster parents to live like a “Leave it to Beaver” family. That’s Knox’s description, not mine.

Senate Bill 158 creates a “special category” known as licensed CARE families, who can receive “substantially higher” pay from the state than foster families who don’t qualify.

According to the language of SB 158, a CARE family is…

  • A husband and wife team married for at least seven years,
  • …in a faithful, loving and caring relationship and
  • …with no sexual relations outside of the marriage
  • …no current use of tobacco by anyone in the family’s home
  • …no alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverages in the family’s home
  • …either the husband or wife, or both, does not work outside the home; and
  • …the family is involved in a social group larger than the family that meets regularly, preferably at least weekly.

In other words, if I really have to spell it out, “church.” The law can’t say church, because that would violate the Bill of Rights. I suppose they could all join a cult. Continue reading

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Filed under U.S. Society

KABOOM! ARGHHH! How Can This Happen In The United States? How Can Any University Think This Is Legal, Fair, Ethical Or Rational? How Can A UNiversity That Acts This Way Be Trusted To Teach Anyone Anything, Other Than How To Be A Fascist?

Thank-you, University of Tulsa...

Thank-you, University of Tulsa…

I really didn’t need another KABOOM! so soon after the last one.

From The Foundation For Individual Rights in Education, with my brainless reactions in bold and brackets:

TU suspended student George “Trey” Barnett last October for three Facebook posts [ It’s unethical and probably illegal to punish Barnett for his own Facebook posts…] published by his husband that criticized another student and two TU faculty members. […but it is beyond belief for the school to punish him for what someone else, regardless of who, posts to his page.] None of the Facebook posts came from Barnett’s account; the statements were posted by his husband, who either tagged Barnett or posted them directly to Barnett’s Facebook page. Barnett’s husband later submitted a sworn affidavit attesting to his sole authorship of the posts. Nevertheless, shortly after TU professor Susan Barrett filed a complaint against Barnett arguing that Barnett could not “avoid responsibility” because someone else was responsible for the posts. [This is Kafaesque. Do these even people know how Facebook works? ] TU Senior Vice Provost Winona Tanaka imposed eight restrictive interim measures against Barnett. The sanctions included suspending his participation in certain courses and activities and even barring him from speaking about certain individuals. [University administrators can not bar whom a citizen may speak to; only judges can do things like that, and only rarely.]

Without affording him the hearing he was entitled to under TU’s University Student Conduct Policies & Procedures, and despite his husband’s affidavit, Tanaka found Barnett responsible for “harassment.” Tanaka also found Barnett guilty of retaliation and violating confidentiality requirements for speaking about the disciplinary charges with his husband—who was also his exculpatory witness. [ What??? WHAT??? Due Process? Rights of the accused? Procedures? Policies? ]

Less than two months before Barnett was set to graduate, Tanaka not only suspended him until at least 2016 but also permanently banned him from receiving a degree in his major even upon his re-enrollment. Barnett was forced to wait two months for TU to respond to his appeal, which the university summarily denied on January 9 without explanation—leaving Barnett unable to earn his theater degree as planned. [ All of this for what someone else wrote on the student’s Facebook page! My key question in ethics scenarios is “What’s going on here?” What’s going on here? I have no idea. An illicit relationship between the apparently fat faculty member Barrett and Tanaka? Insanity?]

…TU has also threatened … its independent student newspaper, The Collegian, which this week reported on Barnett’s suspension and criticized his treatment. The Collegian reports that after contacting TU administrators for comment, student reporters were told by TU’s director of marketing and communications that if “anything that the university deems to be confidential” is “published or shared, (that) could violate university policies.” The university refused to explain what might constitute “confidential” information and, come press time, the journalists were unsure what action the university might take against them. [ OK, let’s just stipulate that the University of Tulsa doesn’t accept the principles underlying the First Amendment. I will await its next abuse of power being aimed at impending worship requirements and a ban on assembly.]

Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Rights, The Internet

Speech And Thought Control At CUNY

The minds of your children aren't safe at CUNY, but your penguins might enjoy it there...

The minds of your children aren’t safe at CUNY, but your penguins might enjoy it there…

A responsible parent has an ethical duty to pull their child out of any university that does  something like this.

From The College Fix:

“Effective Spring 2015, the (graduate center’s) policy is to eliminate the use of gendered salutations and references in correspondence to students, prospective students, and third parties,” Louise Lennihan, interim provost, states to employees in a recent memo. “Accordingly, Mr. and Ms. should be omitted from salutations.” Lennihan instructs staffers to interpret the new policy “as broadly as possible,” that it applies to “all types of correspondence, such as: all parts of any letter including address and salutation, mailing labels, bills or invoices, and any other forms or reports,” states the memo, a copy of which was provided to The College Fix by school spokeswoman Tanya Domi. Rather than using “Mr.” or “Ms.,” staff are instructed to refer to students by his or her full name. The policy will “ensure a respectful, welcoming, and gender-inclusive learning environment … [and] accommodate properly the diverse population of current and prospective students,” Lennihan states in the memo.

Now, I almost never use these salutations any more. “Mr.” has always seemed pompous to me, and now it reminds me of the New York Times with its tradition of calling the President “Mr. Obama.” (Over the weekend, the Times garnered guffaws for calling Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker “Mr. Scott” throughout an op-ed. Nice editing there). “Miss” seems condescending, “Mrs.” is a minefield, and “Ms.” sounds ugly while being both dated and unwelcome from some women. (Once I called a women “Ms.” and she barked at me, “Do I look like a dyke to you???”) And I hate being called Mister myself. All of the is irrelevant, It is not any university’s business to enact speech codes, banned words, or other undemocratic and ideologically driven attempts at censorship and speech control. Speech control is thought control, and thought control is indoctrination. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement