Late-Starting Blogging Ethics Warm-Up, 8/21/2019: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Well, today can’t be worse than yesterday.

That’s something.

1. I got scammed yesterday. Somehow I missed various warnings that were repeated on yesterday, and picked up the phone when caller ID showed “Social Security Administration” and a number I recognized as the agency’s. A recorded message told me that my account had been suspended due to “suspicious action” that had prompted a response by three Federal law enforcement agencies, and if I wanted more information and to talk to an agent, I should push “1.” Like an idiot, I did.  Whoever wrote the scammer’s script knew their stuff. I got a case number, was informed that the discussion was being recorded; the agent spelled his name (Which he said was “Jerry Brown.” He sounded more like Jose Jimenez, but I asked if he was the former governor of California. (He laughed: scammers have senses of humor!) Of course, he had me “confirm” my SS number, name, and mailing address. He read a long statement that he said was an excerpt from the Justice Department warrant shutting down my account. It included two addresses in El Paso that I was asked about. It was at this point that my wife ran into my office like that fat guy runs into the middle of NORAD in “War Games” screaming that the nuclear attack is just a computer simulation, screaming, “Hang up! It’s a scam!” SHE did see the warning earlier in the day. (“NOW you tell me?”)

I reported the call to the Inspector General’s office at Social Security, as a hot line instructed me to do. I was told that, yes, that was the new scam they had wramed about, and that the next step was going to be to ask me to reveal credit card numbers, bank accounts and to send money. “They would ask you to send a money order or Google Gift Card, if possible,” I was told. “Everything you heard is a set-up to get to that point.”

“You know, as stupid as I am, I’m pretty sure that even I would figure out it was a scam if the a Social Security Administration agent asked for a Google Gift card,” I answered. She laughed. I may never laugh again.

2. Nah, the Left isn’t trying to undermine Freedom of Speech!

But wait! There’s more…

  • Here’s New York Governor Andrew Cuomo threatening anyone who says things he doesn’t like: “Don’t you dare liken my family to the family you saw in ‘The Godfather’ or ‘The Sopranos…Don’t you glorify it. And don’t you repeat it, and don’t you institutionalize it.” And what will you and the government you represent do about it, if we “dare,” Governor?

This kind of threat from a government official is a direct attack on free speech. Of course, big brother Andrew was just playing Sonny Corleone to back poor brother Fredo, but the irony of someone talking like a Mafia thug while threatening anyone who makes the comparison is striking.

3.  What courage! What honesty! Several Democratic presidential candidates were asked at the Iowa State Fair if they  denounced the Antifa, which Republican Senators. Ted Cruz (TX) and Bill Cassady (LA) want to have officially labeled as a “domestic terrorist organization.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand answered by saying, “I don’t know who Antifa is.”

She really did. (So did Jay Inslee, but my interest in fringe Democratic candidate pandering extends only so far.)

Gillbrand’s chances at the nomination are nil (GOOD), but this exemplifies what a weasel she is. Either this is a bald faced lie, or she has been asleep for the last three years, which does not speak well of her competence, diligence, or judgement.

Two candidates with even less of a chance than Gillibrand ,Yang and Gabbard, were the only candidates to unequivocally condemn the antifa.

“Why is everyone against antipasto?” Joe Biden asked in response to the question. “I love that stuff! Especially the cheese and those hot peppers! Our great Italian immigrants brought that yummy dish to our nation!”

OK, I’m just kidding.

Sort of.

4. A nice parking lot moment. I was sitting in the car waiting for my wife to pick up a prescription at the local CVS. I opened the windows, and the Beatles Channel burst for the “When I Saw Her Standing There,” one of my all-time favorites, and also as joyful and unrestrained a pop anthem as has ever been recorded. (Ringo is at his best on this one.) I turned up the volume. A wite-haired man in a huge moustache left the CVS and got into the car next to me, and started to pull out. Then he reversed direction and rolled down the window, beaming. “1964!” he said. “Now that’s hard core British invasion! Boy, did that song make us happy. Thank you for that memory…You made my day!”

And he drove off, waving. I will probably never see him again

38 thoughts on “Late-Starting Blogging Ethics Warm-Up, 8/21/2019: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

  1. 1. I’m very sorry that happened.
    2. The fact that they can’t even see what’s wrong with what they’re doing scares me.
    3. Gillibrand is being disingenuous. She can’t possibly not understand who antifa is.
    4. Those moments of connection are great, aren’t they?

  2. Re: No. 1; Scammers should be shot on sight.

    I, too, have fallen for such a ploy but with a credit card. I was driving and received a call from “Choice Visa” about suspicious activity on my account. I got nervous, pulled over, and followed the prompts. It asked for my card number, expiration and security code and hung up. I realized I was scammed at that moment and called “Chase Visa” to inform them what had happened. Thankfully, the lovely representative didn’t mock me, but said that lots of people for it. She closed my account and opened another one at that moment. No damage done. I felt like a doofus, though.


    • I have received some of these, but mine were less polished. It is a shame that you didn’t get someone with a thick Eastern European accent to put you on guard like my last one. Sorry to hear about that. Identity theft is a pain to deal with (Experian data breach victim).

  3. I am sorry you fell for that scam. I have seen that one around over the last 6 months or so. It always seemed silly to me because Social Security does not “suspend” accounts like that, but it is the kind of thing that really puts a scare in to older folks who are trying to make it on their social security and would be devastated if it were interrupted. It is really disgusting to see people preying on the most vulnerable in society.

  4. On point 2 regarding The Case Against Free Speech.
    The title of the book does not describe what the author claims is in the book.

    It appears he is making the obvious point that some have more free speech than others. The 1st Amendment says it’s free not equally powerful.

    I would love to see this blog have far more readers but ” them’s the breaks”. I recognize that some have bigger platforms so it is important that the quality of the speech is such that it captures the attention of the most people who are inclined to repeat that speech.

  5. Re 3:

    I think it’s a reflection of the horrible presidential candidate field that I’m rooting for either Yang or Gabbard.

    • Yang made millions when his businessprepping also rans to score well on SAT’s went public. Like other tech entrepreneurs that did well with one idea he is using some of his new wealth to fund other people’s ideas. This does not mean he has the ability to run a country.

      Promising a payment of 1000 per month seems like buying votes to me. Yang says his plans streamlines all entitlements by making a single payment. He fails to explain that Social Security recipients will be only getting 1000/ month or that section 8 housing recipients that get food stamps will have their subsidies reduced so that he and his working cohorts can get a monthly stipend.

      You cannot add 2.4 trillion annually to the budget without taking that or more away and claim you are being fiscally responsibile

  6. 1. I got that call yesterday as well. The idea of a Social Security person actually getting on the phone to call me on my land line we never use and hardly anyone even knows is ours struck me as so preposterous that all I could do was immediately hang up. And what does it mean to “suspend” a social security account? Am I supposed to be able to just draw money out of it?

    I just started taking social security in the last few months. Decided not to defer until 71 or whenever to get the higher amount thinking better to take some now and not risk the Dems whacking my amount. But I have to admit that as nice as it is having some free money show up every month (something I never thought I’d live to see when getting my checks, net of withholdings, from Leon at Kendall Radiator in 1967, is it ethical to take social security given what a disaster the government’s balance sheet is? The OBs would be just fine without social security because we’ve been lucky and frugal. Anyone?

    • It’s not free money…it’s your money you borrowed to the government the entire time you worked. The government horribly mismanaged those dollars, and now is giving it back to in small increments. Even if none of us took our money back from SS, the government would still be broke, in debt, and horrible at managing money.

    • OB

      I believe you are entitled to receive SS not because the law makes you eligible but because you made contributions to it during your working years. Had you been given the option of keeping it in a private interest earning account the question would be moot. Because you had no option you should feel no remorse for accepting payments.

      • Interesting. I was shocked to find out social security is TAXED! Evidently they don’t tax the first fifteen percent since they figure the amount we paid in is equal to fifteen percent of what we’re “getting back.” I wonder what my contributions would total if they had been put into the stock market or treasuries, tax deferred over the last fifty years.

        Maybe it’s better we take the money and have more to give to the kids and grandkids while we’re alive and post mortem. Trust me, I never thought not taking the money would change the federal government’s fiscal behavior. I was thinking more of the debt having to be paid at some point.

    • My 90 plus grandmother worked for 40 years, and paid into the system ever. single. one. of them. Her return on investment (I just became her Representative Payee this year) is simply horrid. I have seen ponzi schemes with greater returns.

      Take the money back.

      • sw, at sixteen I didn’t know what a Ponzi scheme was but I sure did wonder where those dollars were going. It might as well as been one as near as I could tell. Funny.

  7. On the free speech issue. I’ve been saying it before, there is free speech and there is the First Amendment. If you don’t make the distinction and stand for cultural free speech it’s only a matter of time before the legal protections go. (Politics is downstream from culture, etc.)

    There was a recent essay on Quillette (the oh-so-far-right-publication-they-might-as-well-be-nazis, according to some, online magazine) that goes straight for that point criticizing Ken White for holding the narrow legal position. Essay here:

    Ken uncharacteristically replied with a poor ad-hominem, but then again, since Trump was elected his analysis has declined in quality. It’s sad because I’d love to hear his perspective on the response vs. retaliation issue.

  8. 1. My wife, who is partially deaf, answered a scam call. I felt sorry for the scammer who must have thought he got hold of Emily Litella. After about five minutes, he just gave up. As for myself, I don’t take phone calls but I have recently received some good e-mail offers to join the Illuminati.

  9. 1. Sorry to hear that happened to you. It just goes to show that you have to be on guard 24 hours a day, etcetera. My policy is that I never give any information over the phone no matter who they say they are. I had the IRS scammer call me and I just said, “okay, send me a registered letter” and I hung up. I’d do the same no matter who they claim to be. If it’s official, they can notify me by US mail or deliver a document to my door. Anyway, that’s my policy and I do not compromise that rule for any reason.

    • Exactly my thinking. I told one guy that I would make sure I would be home when the authorities arrived to arrest me. They still have not come.

  10. 1. Glad your wife made it to the rescue, apparently in time, Jack. But, you’ve made me wonder what in the world has happened to your BS detector. Seems to work fine for politics and ethical issues. So, hopefully, that was just a minor, temporary, disturbance in the force. You’ve also made me wonder about that phone number which you recognized as Social Security. Did it turn out to be a real Social Security number, or just a case of mistaken identity? Thanks to smart phones (no landline here, but caller ID would work as well most of the time), I don’t answer calls unless the caller is in my contact list. Anyone else, including the President, will just have to leave a message. And, then, I would not call back the number that was left; instead, if there was a legitimate outfit that could have made the call, such as Social Security, I would look up the outfit online, find their customer service number, and once I was satisfied, I might call them back.

  11. The Social Security Admin never calls you… at all. This is systemic: they really couldn’t be bothered: if you want the benefits, you will contact them. Treat it as a feature.

    The FBI is quite unlikely to ask you for an Amazon card. The NSA could not care less about anything you might have done, and the CIA cannot come after you at your home. NCIS (Navy) and CID (Army) have bigger fish to fry.

    If I am really bored, sometimes I will give them bogus information just to waste their time.

    One scam involves Microsoft telling me my computer has a virus (future news, if you allow them in). I befuddled one such caller by claiming I did not have any computers at all. This just blew his mind.

    My dad fell for a similar gambit involving his iPad and a bogus Apple number. (I blocked his bank account and deactivated his debit card the next morning… hours before an attempted draft for thousands.) I get scammers trying to sell me bogus automotive warranties. (I suddenly do not own that car, and if they persist I don’t own any cars.)

    Once a faux credit collector threatened to come to my house and beat me if I did not pay. I asked if he even knew where I lived. He paused, and gave me a correct address. I asked him if he understood castle doctrine, and that many Texans are armed… and will suffer little consequences for filling a home invader full of holes. End of conversation.

    Another scam has victims threatened with immediate arrest (and kids going to CPS) over a once-valid debt (that was supposedly never paid) if a credit card was not provided on the call. “We have dispatched the Sheriff and he is on his way to your house.” My uncle once replied “Send him in: Tom owes me money.”

    Lately you get a computer trying to get you to answer so they can connect you to a boiler room and milk you from there. Last week, I got a spoofed number from an area code where I really was expecting a call (else I don’t answer). The computer explained that my factory warranty on my car was running out, that rates were going up, and they could hold my lower price TODAY ONLY! “Would you like to be connected to an account agent who can assist you with a quote?” (Polite computer, I’ll give it that much)

    “I am a jelly donut.”

    (Computer actually sputters for a second) “I am sorry, I did not get that. Would you like to be connected to an account agent who can assist you with a quote?”

    “I have a honey badger in my trousers.”

    (Poor computer. I am using words, after all, they just do not fit the programming… um, try again) “I am sorry, I did not get that. Would you like to be connected to an account agent who can assist you with a quote?”

    “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”

    (More electronic confusion, then the decision tree decides to act like we have a bad connection and hung up)

    I once had a call from the IRS threatening to have me arrested over something they had ‘found’ in a several-year-old tax forms. Knowing they send letters and never call, I played rural bumpkin dumb with the heavily accented caller for about 5 minutes. Then I asked to speak with his supervisor, who, while still accented, was more understandable. I made him go through the routine again. He gave me a badge number, case number, phone number (it was correct for the Washington office) but explained that I could not call him back at that number because… whatever. However, I was in dire peril so I needed to listen to him. I kept asking questions (that he had already explained) and my demeanor led him to believer that I was hooked, and I was stupid. (The amount owed went up at that point.)

    15 minutes in he got frustrated and demanded I give him my bank account information. I informed him that my bank account was none of his business, as the IRS did not call taxpayers in such matters. He actually got mad, yelling “if you knew that, why did you waste my time?” “I saved at least three other victims from you.” He hung up.

    It was satisfying, far out of proportion with the results.

  12. 2. The Cuomo brothers. It drives me crazy when idiots bandy about “stereotyping” as being racist. Guess what boys: There are stereotypes and people engage in stereotypical behavior. You know, like Italian American guys who act like mobsters when they perceive they are being threatened? I’m half Irish. If (when) I get a little too drunk and begin making snide remarks to people, could I complain if someone called me a loud mouth, drunken Mick? No. People who engage in stereotypical behavior are estopped from crying “racist!” when they are called out for such behavior. We’re all stereotypes to one extent or another. Stop with the baloney and grow up. There are or have been Italian mobsters and Russian mobsters and Jewish mobsters and Irish mobsters. My mother grew up in 1920 Chicago with a guy who became known as Three Fingered Jack White. A high school buddy’s father was run out of the vending machine business (and bankrupted) by the mob in Miami because they used vending machines to launder their cash from other activities. Grow up, Cuomos. Ask Bobby Kennedy. Why was RICO enacted? The Italian mob is not a myth. Stop being silly, boys. You’re embarrassing your father, who was a pretty reasonable guy.

  13. #2 Here is an article written by the same P.E. Moskowitz that wrote the book mentioned above, The Case Against Free Speech The First Amendment, Fascism, and the Future of Dissent.
    Everything You Think You Know About ‘Free Speech’ Is a Lie It’s behind a paywall with only a few free views.

    Here are a couple of sample quotes from the piece so you can get a feel of the author’s point of view…

    “How far-right operatives manufactured the “crisis” of free speech with books, think tanks—and billions of dollars.”

    No Mr. Moskowitz, it’s not a manufactured crisis, Conservatives are reacting to the political left intentionally trying to intimidate the public into no allowing the free speech of Conservatives. Progressives have shown us that they do not want Conservatives sharing their opinions in public.

    “What I’ve found through my research and reporting is that free speech has become a rhetorical tool to elide something much more sinister: the state’s support and protection of white supremacists, and this country’s unwillingness to grapple with its racism and vast inequality.”

    So I supposed to accept as fact that the police presence trying to prevent ANTIFA from using their favorite tactic of physically assaulting those they disagree with is “state’s support and protection of white supremacists”? Mr. Moskowitz’s claim is BULL SHIT!

    ” ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ Their reasoning makes clear that most of the United States has a deep misunderstanding of what free speech means.”

    No Mr. Moskowitz, you’ve got it wrong – dead wrong! I signed on the dotted line and spent many years in the Army to do my part to maintain the United States Constitution which gives you the right to say whatever nonsense you want, even if I disagree. That is exactly “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Don’t you dare try to diminish the sacrifices of the United States military that’s fought for over 240 years to preserve your right to say stupid shit!

    “Most leftists I talk to… wish that police departments would not spend vast amounts of resources protecting Nazis, something that they have no legal mandate to do.”

    Is that so? Mr. Moskowitz can sic his ANTIFA terrorist goons on those exercising their right to free speech and the right to protest? Yes.

    “Today, the same manufactured “free speech crisis” can be seen across the United States, with conservative groups funded by the same people claiming their rights have been similar infringed upon on college campuses. The same groups have bankrolled provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos, and fund media outlets like Breitbart News whose coverage accentuates these supposed violations.”

    Mr. Moskowitz, you reason like a damn idiot. No Mr. Moskowitz, just because these people have other outlets to exercise their right to free speech does not mean that their free speech rights are not be infringed upon in other places.

    “Meanwhile, the mainstream media, along with many liberals, takes the conservatives at their word, not realizing it’s playing a part in a multi-decade campaign to frame conservatives and white supremacists as victims, as opposed to perpetrators of hate.”

    Mr. Moskowitz: you sir lack logic and you’re a perpetrator of hate. No Mr. Moskowitz, your logic is a complete failure, just because someone is considered a perpetrator of hate does not mean that they are not also a victim of others infringing upon their rights.

    “We no longer think of free speech logically or accurately. Is a college protest over a conservative speaker really a violation of free speech? What about the college students’ right to protest—is that not as important a free speech issue?”

    College students have every right to protest until they abuse that right to intentionally infringe upon the civil rights of others.

    Interesting how Mr. Moskowitz fails to mention that the political left has weaponized the free speech of their hoard of irrational activists and encourages these irrational fools to abuse that weaponized free speech to intentionally infringe upon the free speech rights of others, publicly accost others and intentionally verbally abuse anyone they disagree with. They came up with the phrase“hate radio” to describe any radio broadcast that shares Conservative points of view, call nearly everything that Trump and Conservatives say “hate speech” and falsely call those they disagree with racists and yet they call the hateful words and actions that come from the mouths of their activists justified “free speech”.

    Are all those that consider themselves left of the political divide hypocrites or is it only the ones that open their mouths to prove it and then add to the list the ones that keep their mouths shut justifying it with their ends justifies the means silence?

    • This is interesting. I clicked on the link another provided there was a link describing something vastly different than what you have delivered. Maybe, I did not read everything and missed this but what you have delivered here tells me that Moskowitz is using newspeak to create a leftist narrative.

      I appreciate your analysis

  14. Regarding ‘fascism’ and free-speech

    To say or to believe that what the Left and the Progressives fight is ‘fascism’ is — this is an accurate statement — not true. Fascism is not at this point in time something that we and possibly anyone else has to worry about. When certain extremism-oriented Leftists — who exaggerate for effect — locate and decry ‘fascism’, I am now fairly certain that they do not know what they are talking about. So, there is the problem of ignorance on their part.

    They mean something else and they irresponsibly label it as fascism. But I am almost convinced that they could not reasonably argue that what it is they say is ‘fascism’ is any such thing. I think that what they mean is that ‘fascism’ in their mind is certain ideas, or sound arguments really, that cause people to think differently about their radically forward-thrusting notions. That is one part. But the other part is that conservative social notions are anathema to them. It is true that Conservatism does act as a brake, and I think that they think that ‘brake’ is evil. They are forward-rolling motion unrestrained. In this sense (to get Thomist about it) they are a form of emotional unrestraint.

    I say they deal in ‘notions’ and not ‘ideas’ because — again I say this honestly — I do not see many Left-Progressives dealing in ideas. They deal in emotionalism, sentimentalism, idées reçues, certain conventions and in that sense ‘blind beliefs’. Somehow though, I do not quite know how, they have come to see themselves as the vehicles through which (I say this in a form of literalism) God’s will is done in this stubborn world. They do not have doubts. Maybe having ‘doubt’ is ‘fascistic’ for them?

    So yes, they do wish to curtail the speech that might influence others not to think-feel as they do. They seem to have done their work — and succeeded — at the academy (the universities).

    Are they ‘fascist’ therefore? I am not convinced that limiting speech is necessarily fascist in se. It is a step toward an extreme form of control and also thought-control.

    My theory is that power itself is essentially ‘fascist’ if it is not properly controlled. If it manages to get out from under proper controls it will always manifest itself negatively. There is a grreeaatttt deal at stake in America today: America has an empire in fact and in truth and this empire requires managers, and management in this sense has little or nothing to do with republican democracy as it was conceived. The American people do not ‘have empire’ and for this reason there is a division in the United States.

    Power has certain machinations that it always follows (as history is the lesson-giver here). Therefore it seems to me wise to say: pay attention less to ‘surface’ and more what is happening behind the scenes and tras bambalinas.

  15. Cuomo: “Nice little bank you got here. Would be a shame if something happened to it while you were doing business with the NRA”.

    Cuomo: ” “Don’t you dare liken my family to the family you saw in ‘The Godfather’…

  16. #1: I almost fell for a similar scam. I was reinstalling Windows on a computer several years ago, and was having trouble. I filled out the registration, including my phone number, but the installation/activation failed soon after.

    Some time later, an agent from Microsoft called, saying there was a problem with my license. I said yeah, I was trying to reinstall the system. He offered to remotely login to help.

    Fortunately, I caught on when he sent me to “” rather than “”. I told him he was working for a scam and hung up, my personal information and digital security intact.

    Scammers prowl hundreds of phone numbers, looking for someone naive or distracted enough to comply. They only need a few rubes to make it worth while.

    • Mine was a clown who was trying to convince me I had a virus on my computer. I replied “Which one?”. He appeared confused, and fairly quickly hung up. At the time, I had seven of ’em.

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