Monthly Archives: March 2017

THREE Comments Of The Day (Really Useful Ones): “Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick On The Internet Privacy Bill”

There were not one but three excellent, informative, detailed comments, one after the other,  in response to the post about the GOP’s elimination of the recent Obama FCC regulations of Big Data gathering by broadband providers. Technology competence is, I believe, the greatest looming ethics issue for the professions, and it is important for the general public as well. All three of these Comments of the Day are educational. If only the news media and elected officials were as well-informed as Alex, John Billingsley, and Slick Willy.

I am very proud of the level of the discourse on Ethics Alarms, and these three Comments of the Day on the post Ethics Quote Of The Month: Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick On The Internet Privacy Bill are prime examples.

First, here’s slickwilly:

How to be safe with electronic data

First rule: anything online is vulnerable, no matter who secures it. It follows that any computer/device connected online is also vulnerable.

Second rule: Public WiFi is hack-able, and doing so is not that difficult. Someone just has to want to. Using it for playing games could make you vulnerable, and using it to access your financial information (banks, brokers, etc.) is stoopid

Third rule: Anything you do electronically is forever. Any tweet, snap chat, Facebook post, cell phone text or conversation, email, web post, browsing activity, and anything else may be saved by someone. Some of those are harder to get than others: browsing activity takes a snooper on the data line, or a court order to set a snooper up at your ISP. For instance, all cell phones activity is now all saved by the NSA, including where the phone was when. No, no one looks at it, not until they have a reason to research a person, perhaps years later. ‘Smart’ TVs can record you in your own home, without your knowledge, unless you take steps to stop it (electrical tape over cameras/microphones is a start, but still not enough)

Fourth rule: Any public activity can be recorded today. Besides CCD cameras everywhere and license plate readers on many roads, facial metrics can track you in most urban and many rural areas. Even going into the desert or mountains could be spotted via satellite, should the motivation be enough to look your way.

So don’t leave your computer connected to the Internet 24/7 (a power strip that stops electricity from reaching the computer helps cut connectivity when ‘off’), do nullify the ability of other devices to spy on you in your home, and never say anything electronically you do not want going public. Use complex passwords, and never the same for multiple sites. Password safes are better than written notes (and Apple Notes are silly to use for this.) How much you protect yourself depends on your level of paranoia.

Do you have something to hide? A secret you would rather not be made public? Do not document it electronically! Or use the method below.

Now, how to be safe with electronic information: Place it exclusively on an air-gapped (no network connection at all) computer. Place that computer in a heavy steel safe. Encase that safe in concrete, take it out to a deep ocean trench, and drop it overboard. Forget the coordinates where you dropped it.

The point is, nothing is fool-proof

You can take steps to lower the probability that your information gets out, but even using paper and quill pen was only so good as the physical security the document was placed under. Learn some simple steps and you will remove yourself from the radar of most predators. People are careless, apathetic, and just plain dumb, so anything you do helps keep you safer.

I keep such information in a secure, encrypted flash drive that is not stored in a computer USB slot. Could someone break the encryption, should they find the drive and wish to spend the effort? Sure. But if they want me that badly they will get me, one way or another. Why would they? I do not have any deep dark secrets or hidden crimes in my past. Even so, why should my business be available to anyone just to browse through?

Your mileage may vary, but doing nothing is unethical in my responsibilities to my family.

Now John Billingley’s contribution:

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Health and Medicine, Professions, Rights, Science & Technology, The Internet

“Ghost In The Shell” And “Whitewashing”

Once again, a Hollywood film has political correctness furies attacking its casting. This time, it’s the sci-fi “Ghost in the Shell,” starring Scarlett Johansson.

The sad fact is, movie makers can’t win. If a black actor isn’t cast to play a white character in the source material, Hollywood is engaging in bias by eschewing “non-traditional casting,” which is necessary to remedy de facto segregation and prejudice in movies. If Charlton Heston is cast as a Mexican, as in “Touch of Evil,” it’s “whitewashing”—prejudicial and racist casting of whites to play non-whites. Of course, when Morgan Freeman, an African American, is cast to play a dark skinned Semitic character in “Ben Hur,” nobody calls that “blackwashing,” for there is no such thing as blackwashing. Casting Denzel Washington as a white character from “The Pelican Brief”: great! Who doesn’t like Denzel? Casting Denzel as the white hero of “The Magnificent Seven” in the remake, when the white hero was non-traditionally cast with the sort-of Eurasian Yul Brenner in the original, was also great, because—who doesn’t like Denzel?  Casting  Andy Garcia, a Cuban-American, as member of the Italian Corleone family in “Godfather III” was also fine and dandy, but not the casting of sort-of Eurasion Brenner as the King of Siam in “The King and I,” (even though he won the Tony and the Academy Award for an iconic performance)—, especially with all those great Thai musical comedy stars available. So that was–what, “sort-of-whitewashing”?

All right: how about a musical conceived with the novel conceit of having the Founding Fathers played by young black and Hispanic performers? Is that non-traditional casting? Minority-washing? Is it racist to stay with the original (brilliant) concept and tell white actors they can’t audition to be Hamilton, Jefferson, and Aaron Burr? Of course it’s not racist. After all, those actors are white. Screw ’em.

Are you seeing a theme here? Neither am I. What matters in casting a play, film or writing an adaptation is whether the final result works: How well do the actors play their roles? Is it entertaining? Does it make money?

Now the casting of  Johansson as an originally Japanese character in a Japanese manga comic and animated film is being attacked as racist. Whitewashing, you know. No, in fact the words applicable here are “adaptations,” “movies,” “cultural cross-pollination” and “commerce.”  In this case, not always, but in this case, the accusation of “whitewashing” is pure race-baiting.

More than forty years ago, the real life German prison camp escape engineered by captured WWII British fliers was made into the film “The Great Escape.” Brits were annoyed as production got underway, however, by the presence of heroic American prisoners in the cast, the characters played by U.S. stars James Garner and Steve McQueen. This was, British critics and veterans said, an outrage: Americans had nothing to do with the real escape. The answer by the producers contained three segments:

1. We own the film rights, and can do whatever we think will make the best movie.

2. The film is fictionalized, and makes no representations to the contrary.

3. Garner and McQueen will ensure that the film makes a profit in the U.S, plus they are both great and entertaining young stars.

Good justifications all. “The Great Escape,” as we now know,  is a classic, still honored the real event, and made lots of money. Somehow, British self-esteem recovered.

The Brits also didn’t complain when Japan’s great film auteur director, Akira Kurasawa, made an all-Japanese cast adaptation of “King Lear,” which is about a Celtic king. Wasn’t this–what, “yellow-washing”? Don’t be silly: all good stories can be told in myriad ways, in many cultural contexts. “Ghost in the Shell” is a science fiction fantasy. It is not about real people, and the characters were  Japanese because the author and intended audience were Japanese—you know, like the original “King Lear” was in Elizabethan English.

“Ghost in the Shell” director Rupert Sanders cast Johansson as the cyborg assassin named Motoko Kusanagi in the original and renamed the character “Mira Killian.” It is the “Who doesn’t like Denzel?” non-traditional casting principle, except the even more understandable “Who doesn’t like Scarlet, especially when she looks naked for much of the movie?” variation. The perambulations of critics trying to find something racist about the most obvious box office casting choice imaginable border on hilarious. At some point, actress Johansson decided it was more lucrative and fun being the next female action movie star than starring in solemn costume drama bombs like “The Girl With The Pearl Earring” and “The Other Boleyn Girl.” Since then, she has been rising as a bankable star in blockbusters like “The Avenger” films and “Lucy.” Quick: name another hot (I mean, of course, popular and bankable) female action star?

I’m waiting…

Writes Matt Golberg in a laugh riot called “Ghost in the Shell is Racist In Surprising Ways””  (another whitewashing screed, equally lame, is here): Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Literature, Popular Culture

Comment Of The Day: “President Trump Will Not Throw Out The First Ball Of The Baseball Season”

The post about how the Democratic hate-mongering campaign against President Trump has stopped him from continuing the century old tradition of POTUS symbolically signalling the beginning of the baseball season with a ceremonial first pitch inspired another Comment of the Day from Steve-O-in NJ, on the related topic of jerks.

Part of his commentary below evokes TV comics, who, as he notes, have become entirely one-party, partisan shills, and if that leaves humor in the dust, so be it.

Last night, reacting to news that Ivanka Trump would be an unpaid but official advisor to her father, Daily Show host Trevor Noah  played a clip of an old interview with Ivanka by Leslie Stahl, in which the First Daughter answered a question about whether she would be active in the administration, saying,

“Um no, I’m going to be a daughter.”

“And a liar!” quipped Noah. HAHAHAHAHA! Isn’t that funny? HAHAHAHAHA! He’s a vile, unfunny,  dumb partisan hack. What she said wasn’t a promise, and it wasn’t a pledge. Even if it was uttered by Ivanka under oath, it couldn’t be called a lie, or even hypocrisy, unless there is reason to believe that she said this knowing it wouldn’t be true. Proof, please, Mr, Noah, you asshole.

That’s what she thought was the case then; now conditions have changed, and she decided to do something else.  If a woman, say, Ivanka Trump, said on TV, “I’m going to marry Trevor Noah,” and then, having seen what a miserable jerk he is on TV, decided not to marry him, would that mean she was lying when she said she would? Do these relentless leftist hit-comics —Bee, Oliver, Maher, Colbert, Kimmel, et al, or the right-oriented…wait, there are no right-oriented comics—have any integrity at all? Decency? Or a dictionary?  The people who find Noah’s attack on Ivanka hilarious are the same people who were glad she was harassed on an airplane, and who organized a boycott of her products. You know. Jerks.

Mega Jerk Noah then detoured into news that former South Korea President Park Geun-hye would be jailed for corruption. “Wow, a president impeached, removed from office and thrown in jail. Imagine that,” said Noah, “No, no, seriously, let’s all close our eyes and imagine that.”

I have Facebook friends who issue bile like this every day. It is simply, clearly, hate-mongering, citizens wishing ill on their nation’s leader, making two party government impossible, and fanning the flames of social unrest while proclaiming their own bias and ignorance. They want to jail the President of the United States because he beat their corrupt, incompetent candidate. Stalin would be so proud.

These are friends of mine, but their conduct is detestable and loathsome.

But I digress. Here is Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, President Trump Will Not Throw Out The First Ball Of The Baseball Season:

Someone compared me to Mr. Hyde or a werewolf, so I have to make sure I’ve taken my potion before I respond. Unfortunately, the jerks win a lot more than a lot of us would like to admit, as every kid who took the long way home to avoid the class bully, every girl who didn’t attend dances because she was marginalized by the queen bees, and three quarters of people who quit jobs (75% of resignations are due to not getting along with one’s immediate supervisor) can testify to. In the past the grown-up culture of this country had moved past jerkiness, now it thrives on it.

Part of it is the ease with which now anyone can say anything about anyone and have it cross cyberspace in the blink of an eye. Not only that, but now anyone with a couple of apps or Photoshop (if you spring for it) can easily make anyone look bad or create an image that can’t be unseen (I just got Photoshop, and a friend who serves me in the same role as Jiminy Cricket warned me to use it wisely and NOT to combine my photographic and rhetorical skills to cook up tasty, quickly digestible morsels of hate, bias, or disdain) . However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Leadership, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick On The Internet Privacy Bill

“We don’t solve problems by misrepresenting what the real scenario is. It’s true that ISPs have way too much power over these markets, and they can see and collect a ton of information on you which can absolutely be misused in privacy-damaging ways. But let’s at least be honest about how it’s happening and what it means. That’s the only way we’re going to see real solutions to these issues.”

Mike Masnick on Techdirt on the ignorance of  supporters, critics, and the public regarding consumer broadband privacy protections, which were just repealed by straight party line votes in Congress, as part of the Congressional Review Act, which allows the legislative branch to eliminate regulations and limits an agency’s ability to issue similar rules to the ones being struck down. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.

I can see both sides of the Internet “privacy” debate. All I ask is that the average screaming head on TV knows what she’s talking about, and that the news media try to educate citizens on the issue, not portray it as another Obama did it so it’s wonderful, Trump is overturning it, so it’s the end of the world. This morning I watched Morning News Babe Robin Meade roll her eyes while “describing’ what the bill does completely inaccurately. The bill, her unhappy face broadcast is baaaad like everything the Trump Administration and Republicans do is baaaaad. Then she explained that the bill would allow internet service providers, browsers and “search engines” to take your internet history and sell it to big corporations.  Then she giggled about how Max Temkin, inventor of some card game* I have never heard of, promised in a tweet…

“If this shit passes I will buy the browser history of every congressman and congressional aide and publish it.”

Robin, not having the foggiest idea what the bill really did, thought this was so funny and cool. She did not inform her audience, some of whom were actually seeking reliable information and not just tuning in to ogle, that..

  • The bill only undoes the Obama FCC regulations that stopped ISPs from gathering data on its customers’ internet use, and they hadn’t taken effect yet. In other words, it changes nothing.
  • Google, Amazon, Facebook, and other browsers and internet services still can gather anything they get their grubby cyber paws on. The FCC doesn’t regulate them.

You can’t buy Congress’ internet data. You can’t buy my internet data. You can’t buy your internet data. That’s not how this works. It’s a common misconception. We even saw this in Congress four years ago, where Rep. Louis Gohmert went on a smug but totally ignorant rant, asking why Google won’t sell the government all the data it has on people. As we explained at the time, that’s not how it works*. Advertisers aren’t buying your browsing data, and ISPs and other internet companies aren’t selling your data in a neat little package. It doesn’t help anyone to blatantly misrepresent what’s going on.

When ISPs or online services have your data and “sell” it, it doesn’t mean that you can go to, say, AT&T and offer to buy “all of Louis Gohmert’s browsing history.” Instead, what happens is that these companies collect that data for themselves and then sell targeting. That is, when Gohmert goes to visit his favorite publication, that website will cast out to various marketplaces for bids on what ads to show. Thanks to information tracking, it may throw up some demographic and interest data to the marketplace. So, it may say that it has a page being viewed by a male from Texas, who was recently visiting webpages about boardgames and cow farming (to randomly choose some items). Then, from that marketplace, some advertisers’ computerized algorithms will more or less say “well, I’m selling boardgames about cows in Texas, and therefore, this person’s attention is worth 1/10th of a penny more to me than some other company that’s selling boardgames about moose.” And then the webpage will display the ad about cow boardgames. All this happens in a split second, before the page has fully loaded.

At no point does the ad exchange or any of the advertisers know that this is “Louis Gohmert, Congressional Rep.” Nor do they get any other info. They just know that if they are willing to spend the required amount to get the ad shown via the marketplace bidding mechanism, it will show up in front of someone who is somewhat more likely to be interested in the content.

That’s it.

Got that, Robin?

Probably not. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Science & Technology, The Internet

Dear Betsy DeVos: Can You Condemn This Pervasive Child Abuse And Anti-Gun Indoctrination In The Public Schools, Please? Thanks!

Caitlin Miller, 5, was playing with her best friends during recess at the Raeford, North Carolina school playground. Her two friends were pretending to be a king and queen, and Caitlin was in charge of protecting the kingdom. She picked up a small stick (above) and pretended to shoot imaginary intruders entering the kingdom.

The 5-year-old was sent to the principal’s office and suspended for one day for “turning a stick into a gun and threatening to shoot and kill other students,”  the school’s ridiculous assistant principal wrote in a note to Caitlin’s parents. Caitlin, says her mother, doesn’t understand why she was being punished. I don’t blame her. She may soon come to the conclusion that using one’s imagination is wrong, and that guns, even imaginary guns are evil. Or, in the alternative, she may decide that teachers and principals are fools, authority is abusive, and public school is a something to be feared and distrusted.

I would urge her toward the second conclusion rather than the  first.

The Hoke County School District issued a statement that “will not tolerate assaults, threats or harassment from any student.”

See what I mean, Caitlin? You didn’t do any of that, but you are being taught by lying, authoritarian jackasses. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Government & Politics, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month, As Trump Derangement Allegedly Eats Chuck Schumer’s Brain”

Aggressive Ethics Alarms commenter Elizabeth II was on fire yesterday, authoring two and maybe three Comment of the Day-worthy screeds. This was the first of them, and on a topic that never can have enough discussion here: civility, in reaction to Senator Schumer’s public berating of a Trump voter in a New York restaurant.

Incidental Update: when that post was written, no leftward mainstream media sources reported the incident, though it was unquestionable newsworthy. If Senator McCain or Mitch McConnell, and certainly Sarah Palin, had behaved this way, it would be on every front page and CNN would be leading with it every hour.  I noted that this was a perfect example of how the polarization of news sources works today; I also wondered if the story would ultimately be debunks or credibly denied. The story  hasn’t been debunked, and the Left’s media pals have ignored it. From now on, I think I’ll ask any desperate denier of news media bias try to explain this.

Here is Elizabeth II’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month, As Trump Derangement Allegedly Eats Chuck Schumer’s Brain”:

I think this is more than Trump Derangement — though of course Trump as POTUS is making it worse. It is the awful, seemingly uncontrolled downturn in civility generally in this country. We dress like slobs, we act like slobs, and we talk like slobs. We seem to have no control over our behavior: in perhaps two generations, all bets are off in terms of civil behavior.

When my son was very young I did want him to learn to be a “gentleman.” This had nothing to do with money, class, or beliefs: it was attitudinal and behavioral only.

My explanation was this: what you do or say in the privacy of your own home — absent breaking the law — is absolutely one’s own business.

Outside the home, however, is where being a ‘gentleman’ comes into play. The key to being a gentleman is to match your public behavior to where you are and who you are with — doing so with grace and civility without , compromising your own personal ethic. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Family, Government & Politics, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunces: The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences

The Academy Awards announced that it will allow PriceWaterhouseCoopers to continue to represent the Oscars’ integrity as well as the organizations pledge that the results aren’t being, will not be, cannot be and haven’t been rigged, misread, wrongly tallied or mistakenly announced.

This, despite the fact that the firm proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it cannot be trusted to do this, by either the Academy or the Oscar viewing audience, because it did not do it, exposing its carelessness and incompetence on national TV.

This is NASA letting Morton Thiokol continue to build space shuttles. This is the federal government re-hiring the same IT firm that made Healthcare.gov. This is Wesley Snipes rehiring the tax expert who told him he didn’t have to pay income taxes.

In addition to complete failure of management that the Academy’s decision to let bygones be bygones represents, it also has cultural consequences. As a culture, the United States has become allergic to accountability in all sectors. Over at Wells Fargo, where management presided over a nation-wide conspiracy to defraud depositors,  CEO John Stumpf opted for early retirement after the scandal, and is walking away with around $130 million, according to SEC filings.  Unless further action is taken by Wells Fargo’s board, which looks increasingly unlikely, Stumpf will leave with a fortune made up of stocks, cash payouts and other compensation. The Obama Administration, as documented here, repeatedly refused to hold incompetent agency heads accountable for fiascos, notably both of its Attorney Generals, and all three of its White House spokesmen. University president after university president disgraced their institutions by capitulating to racist, anti-speech, anti-education demands by students without consequence to their tenure. In journalism, Brian Williams remains on NBC’s payroll and the TV screen, despite having proven himself to be a habitual liar. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Popular Culture, Professions