Ethics Catch-Up 11/14/2009: Better Late Than Never

Good morning!

Good Afternoon!

Good Night!

I started this post at about 10 am, and again, and again, and each time another post topic intervened, pushing the daily Warm-Up from the beginning of the day to the end of it…

1. Yet another shield becomes a sword…Add caller ID to the list of useful developments ruined by unscrupulous technology. I was recently tricked by what my phone said was a call by the Social Security Administration, and it included a phone number that I had recently received a legitimate call from, via an agent. This call was a scam. Investigating, I found that there are inexpensive apps available at the Android and Apple app stores with no limitations on who can purchase them that have few if any legal of legitimate purpose. SpoofCard, TraceBust, Fake Call Plus and more  allow a caller to enter any ID they choose, and any number. They also offer menus of background sounds, various voice pitches and other features to facilitate fraud.

When ethics fail, the law must step in, and these apps should be illegal.

2. Mona Lisa Ethics. “Leonardo’s painting is a security hazard, an educational obstacle and not even a satisfying bucket-list item. It’s time the Louvre moved it out of the way” shouted a New York Times sub-headline.” It’s hard to argue with the article’s conclusion….or its author’s contempt.  Here’s a photo of the typical crowd in the Louvre’s room where the Va Vinci painting is exhibited:

The Times observes…

Content in the 20th century to be merely famous, she has become, in this age of mass tourism and digital narcissism, a black hole of anti-art who has turned the museum inside out…Relocated to the Richelieu painting wing, the Mona Lisa reduced the museum’s Flemish collection into wallpaper for a cattle pen, where guards shooed along irritated, sweaty selfie-snappers who’d endured a half-hour line. The overcrowding was so bad, the museum had to shut its doors on several days. “The Louvre is suffocating,” said a statement from the union of the museum’s security staff, who went on strike…[The author] went up with the crowds recently. Things were no better. Now, you must line up in a hideous, T.S.A.-style snake of retractable barriers that ends about 12 feet from the Leonardo — which, for a painting that’s just two and a half feet tall, is too far for looking… visitors…could hardly see the thing, and we were shunted off in less than a minute. …Pathetic new signs [read]: “The Mona Lisa is surrounded by other masterpieces — take a look around the room.”

Morons. These are the fruits of celebrity culture and the spread of the sick addiction to self-celebration. Taking selfies of an art masterpiece only has the objective of proving an idiot was there, for other idiots who are impressed. Meanwhile, those who might really appreciate the painting are  prevented from doing so.

3. More on the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Reports out of Boston and New York implicate Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, in 2017 Astros bench coach, and newly named New York Mets  manager Carlos Beltran, then the Astros DH, in the season-long sign-stealing the year the Astros ended up as World Champions. Cora has thus far refused comment, and Beltran denied the allegations. I wouldn’t oppose fines and even a suspensions for the two if their complicity were proven, but how far should the shared accountability go, and what should MLB’s policy be toward coaches and other team personnel when its management—in this case, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, approves a cheating scheme? Anyone who served as a whistleblower would be an instant and permanent pariah, like a police officer who “rats” on his fellow cops. What is a fair policy in such a culture?

4. Cultural airbrushing and trigger warnings from Disney: On its new streaming service, Disney feels it necessary to stain its past animated masterpieces with this warning:

 “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

History isn’t “outdated.” and cultural artifacts from another era are not “outdated” either—they are from another era, and always should be watched with that in mind, but objectively, and without bias. It’s educational and provides perspective to see how earlier generations and their artists saw the world, especially before oppressive progressive censorship and threatened punishment intervened.

5. It should not surprise anyone to know that Jane Fonda is a totalitarian at heart.  Octagenarian Jane, who finally may be having trouble getting acting gigs when she looks like one of the reanimated corpses played by Meryl Streeo and Goldie Hawn in “Death Becomes Her,” has now taken up residence in D.C. to make a protesting menace of herself.

On the debut of The Impeachment Show,  the longtime Ho Chi Minh admirer said that there’s “literally a ticking time bomb over everything” (because of climate change, naturally), and claimed “our government is being ruled by fossil fuel” and that “democracy is teetering on the edge of collapse.” Her solution? Oil executives and enabling politicians “should all be tried for crimes against humanity and nature.”  “So, you want to see sort of a Nuremberg trial for climate criminals?” her host “Yeah, I would,” answered Henry’s baby girl.

28 thoughts on “Ethics Catch-Up 11/14/2009: Better Late Than Never

  1. 1.

    When ethics fail, the law must step in, and these apps should be illegal.

    I’ve always thought technically legal chicanery should be dealt with by warfare exploiting the same technicalities. I once heard a story about a software engineer who received one-too-many calls from one of those shady, overseas spam companies. He apparently built some software which called the company 1000 times per second, tying up all its lines in perpetuity.

    I’ve wondered how feasible it would be to source funding to build an elite team of white-hat vigilantes sworn to seek out and neutralize spam callers, virus engineers, and fraud e-mailers worldwide. I could head the team, leveraging my exquisite combination of technology-illiteracy, nonexistent people skills, bad salesmanship, and pronounced leadership inexperience.

  2. 2. Jeez, Glad we saw it before it got like that. I don’t know whether it’s the “democratization” of travel, or the deluge of internet information, but more and more famous sites are overrun with tourists in numbers not proportional to mere population growth. Sounds like you have a better chance of getting a slot for “The Last Supper” in Milan (that admits far smaller groups).

    Funny that the NYT article compares Mona to the Kardashians, as she became really famous for, well, getting famous. The painting was only really well know in artsy circles until publicity about its theft in the 1911 propelled it to fame. Nobody even noticed it was missing until an artist wanting to copy it complained and asked when it would be put back in place.
    Amusingly, the authorities detained Pablo Picasso for questioning in the theft.

  3. I’ve never understood the adoration of the Mona Lisa. After my first viewing every subsequent trip has been spent viewing everything but the insane crowds and a tiny painting.

    On a trip to Vienna I wanted to view the Klimts. The museum has a selfie station with a replica of The Kiss. It helped some. I spent most of my time appreciating the other paintings. Judith is amazing and there weren’t crowds pushing and shoving.

    • 1. It is one of Da Vinci’s relatively few paintings.
      2. He obviously thought it was special, since it took him 16 years to complete it.
      3. The artist is one of the most brilliant, versatile, and productive geniuses in human history.
      4. Its estimate value is about 820 million dollars.
      5. The manner in which it was painted is unique, and still not completely understood.

      I think that’s enough to justify its fame. The problem with most people who are disappointed in famous places and artifacts is that they don’t know enough about them to a appreciate just sharing space with history. I have often had this argument with people who say they were “disappointed” in The Alamo. A massive and unique human and historical drama took place there. That’s enough.

  4. There are legitimate uses for caller ID spoofing on cell phones. One example I personally know of is a doctor who will return patients’ calls when he’s out of the office from his cell phone. For obvious reasons, he doesn’t want his patients to have his personal cell phone number, so he spoofs his office number. This also increases the chance that the patient will actually answer the call, as it appears to be coming from a number they may recognize.

    It’s already illegal to spoof caller ID with the intent to defraud, but like many of our existing laws (especially regarding telemarketing and phone fraud), there’s virtually no enforcement of it. Making the apps themselves illegal wouldn’t do much to stop the scammers. Those intending to do harm with them wouldn’t stop using them (I mean, they’re already comfortable with committing wire fraud), so it’d really just be inconveniencing people who have a legitimate use.

    I got a call from a fake “Social Security” scam last week myself. I didn’t recognize the number, so I sent it to voicemail. The pre-recorded message they left said that my SS number had been compromised, and they were filing a lawsuit against me. It was pretty nonsensical, and obvious that it was a scam. Why would the government be suing me because someone else got hold of my Social Security number? I wish I had actually answered the call, though, for the entertainment value of badgering someone whose first language almost certainly isn’t English to explain to me why, if they really were the Social Security Administration, and they had initiated the call to me, they needed me to tell them what my SSN is.

      • Yeah, but a lot of people (I’m one of them) won’t answer if an incoming call has caller-ID blocked, so then you end up playing voicemail tag.

        • If I get a call that says ‘Private number’, I am never going to answer that call. Likewise, we got a lot of calls last week that purported to be from our own phone number. I don’t know what the scam was because I didn’t answer any of them.

          I got a call a day or two ago from either the SSA or the IRS, can’t recall which, telling me I had to something real quick because they were about to issue an arrest warrant for me. All I can say is……..come get me coppers! Sadly it was a recorded message so I didn’t get a chance to actually interact with them.

        • With doctors, can’t they just have the number displayed be their answering service?

          I do answer just about all *private* numbers because that’s how calls from a client and a pal from Norway come up. If it’s unwanted, I terminate the call, sometimes after a few choice words that ought leave no question of my displeasure.

          The calls from SSA & the IRS & “All I can say is……..come get me coppers”?

          What I say is…um… a tad different and which affords me both a chuckle and a “take that, you POS” externality.

          I figure the worse that’ll come of it is the caller, who must know they’re breaking the law, may just consider a different line of work.

  5. RE #1: back in the mid-’80s I went to school in Paris for about half a year. The Louvre, and of course the Mona Lisa, were early stops on my attempts to see the city (most of which were abandoned). I remember thinking how thoroughly underwhelming it was, despite its fame and brilliance. And even then, one was kept back from it about 15′ – way too far to get the close look that would reveal the reasons for its fame.

    RE #4: I will admit to the most grudging support for what Disney is doing here. I would far rather the works be available in their original form, with a trigger warning to the snowflakes, than removed from circulation (either voluntarily or by force of mob action). Disney isn’t above making such decisions; consider that its remarkable 1946 live/animated production Song of the South is essentially unavailable, in large part due to controversy over how slavery and African-Americans were portrayed.

    • 4. Your thoughts are very similar to mine on this, Arthur. I was even thinking of an alternative second sentence to Disney’s intended disclaimer. Instead of “It may contain outdated cultural depictions,” I think it would be fine if it said, “It may reflect cultural values that are unlike those of today. Snowflake discretion is advised.” (Just kidding about that proposed third sentence – could not resist being snarky.)

    • Song of the South is set after the Civil War, so there aren’t any slaves. Still, it’s just too close for comfort and too much of a magnet for Al Sharpton types. I had a whole book of the Uncle Remus stories when I was a kid, all written in dialect. I wish I still had it, just to read it to the kids in the family, have them repeat it at school, and watch some heads explode.

      “Iff’n you don’ let go mah behind foots, Ah’s goin’ to butt you cranksided!”

  6. Regarding Hanoi Jane, if I had a client who repeatedly violated the law and kept getting arrested over and over while out on bond, that client wouldn’t be out on bond for very long. Different status for the elites?

  7. 2. I’ve come to avoid art galleries like the plague. Unless one is expert in brush technique, I think a person can get a lot more benefit from reading about art in books than being jostled around in an art gallery with thousands of other people. Being close to the actual artifact is neat but not indispensable.

    5. It should not surprise anyone to know Jane Fonda is a total airhead. A classic beauty, but an airhead. Cute but out to lunch. Let’s put it this way, she’s no Heddy Lamar.

    • Other Bill, I understand what you’re saying. But I’m still willing to go for the right reasons. When I was in Paris the Louvre’s Impressionist collection was housed at a building on Louvre grounds called the Jeu de Palme (it has since moved to the Musee D’Orsay). The museum housed fabulous stuff by Degas, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh… and my favorite, a whole bunch of Renoir.

      I would sit in the room with the Renoirs for hours, just gazing at them. They gave me a sense of peace. In addition to the gorgeous technique, the warmth, kindness and generosity of his work simply can’t be experienced with a book.

  8. 2. Is Lisa’s portrait the one with the alleged UFO in it? Maybe THAT explains the ridiculous crowds. Maybe I am confusing Lisa with some other famous painting…

  9. (1) You can’t effectively outlaw these apps. When Caller ID was implemented, it was designed for land lines, with the phone companies in control of the phone system. When you plugged a phone into your wall, it was the phone company’s equipment that determined the phone number of the phone. Once VoIP and cell phones were created, however, the phone had to be emulated in software. The software had to tell the phone system what the phone number was, since the phone wasn’t physically plugged into a port in the phone company’s infrastructure. This is easily faked. The only way to stop it is to have the phone company change the way CallerID works. Banning the apps is just a knee-jerk reaction that only deals with a symptom. You have to deal with the actual problem.

  10. 1. The one good thing I can say is that technology eventually catches up with itself, so eventually there will be a way to block this bs. In the meantime I ignore 8 out of 10 calls.

    2. I went in 2014 and it wasn’t so bad, but I knew what to expect and what I was getting. I wouldn’t go to see it again. I take few selfies, since I don’t consider myself all that photogenic. I will take them with celebs or with friends as mementos. I think it is idiotic to take a picture of yourself with a famous work of art while rocking a pair of duck lips or a peace sign, but, then again, it’s mostly millennials and Zers who do it, so, Q.E.D.

    3. (shrug) Not enough expertise to comment, but given the large amounts of wealth in that field, even expulsion isn’t that bad.

    4. Disney didn’t get as far or as wealthy as they did without knowing exactly how to insulate themselves from any kind of complaints that could hurt their bottom line. That’s why every couple of years they bang out yet another story about a strong, brave, perfect Mary Sue princess, built around platitudes like “believe in yourself.” That’s why they do theme parks better than anyone else in the world with a PR campaign to push anything else off the board and steep, steep prices, made steeper if you really want to have the best experience you can. That’s why they make damn sure every culture other than European is portrayed glowingly, even if it means bending history a bit. And that’s why their older unwoke material comes with warning labels, so that the millennials and Zers won’t turn on them and hurt their bottom line, which, in the end, is what they are all about.

    5. This has been well known for a while. Jane of course apologized for her actions in the Vietnam War when they might hurt her exercise video sales, but her opinions regarding totalitarians never really changed. She of course never said it outright, but I really believe she is of a kindred spirit with the now dead former lawyer and convicted felon Lynne Stewart who said openly:

    “I don’t have any problem with Mao or Stalin or the Vietnamese leaders or certainly Fidel locking up people they see as dangerous. Because so often, dissidence has been used by the greater powers to undermine a people’s revolution.”

    Mao, who deliberately created a famine that starved his own people and called it the Great Leap Forward? Stalin, the second greatest villain in all history who actually amassed a higher body count than Hitler, but only falls to second place because he committed democide (government killing its own people for tyrannical reasons) rather than genocide (deliberate destruction of a race out of hatred)? The Vietnamese leaders who turned a fledgling democracy into a Communist pawn of the Soviets? Fidel? Seriously?

    The fact of the matter is that a lot of the left is only in favor of dissent as long as it serves them. Once they get in power, they have no use for allowing anyone else to use it – unless they intend to use it to set up a purge. Mao allowed the Cultural Revolution so liberals would make themselves heard, and he’d know who was who to target them later. Gaddafi was once asked about elections after he’d been in power 30+ years and he scoffed, saying that now all the people were in power, so there was no need for elections. Chavez in Venezuela crushed dissent to the point where one of his AGs was known as “the superprosecutor” for locking up so many of his political foes. The left is really only in favor of any change as long as it serves them, which is why some of the black mayors of declining cities fight tooth and nail to prevent gentrification, because it would destroy their base. Thankfully Jane’s just one of their hangers-on and advocates. Bernie, on the other hand, and folks like him would put these crazy ideas into practice.

  11. On the debut of The Impeachment Show, the longtime Ho Chi Minh admirer said that there’s “literally a ticking time bomb over everything” (because of climate change, naturally), and claimed “our government is being ruled by fossil fuel” and that “democracy is teetering on the edge of collapse.” Her solution? Oil executives and enabling politicians “should all be tried for crimes against humanity and nature.” “So, you want to see sort of a Nuremberg trial for climate criminals?” her host “Yeah, I would,” answered Henry’s baby girl.

    Jane Fonda did not invent the concept of “climate criminals”.

    It will come to that. It’s not politically possible at this time. In the future, there will be an international authority to enact and enforce measures against anthropogenic global warming, and it will have police powers. This of course is one of the things that climate change deniers most fear. They think of this as tyranny, instead of as saving the future for humanity, which is what it really will be.

    This is one of the most stupid and evil things I have ever heard of. Some people are perfectly willing to pay high taxes in order to threaten to kill the wives and children of soldiers with nuclear weapons if there is a nuclear war, even though the laws of war say this is not permissible. But they are unwilling to pay any tax at all or pass any laws to save their own children and grandchildren from global warming.

    I posted as a comment.

    And if this “international authority” with “police powers” tries to arrest anyone in the United States,

    remember that the United States has thousands of hydrogen bombs, and the first bomb will be dropped on the headquarters of this international authority.

  12. #3 “Anyone who served as a whistleblower would be an instant and permanent pariah, like a police officer who “rats” on his fellow cops. What is a fair policy in such a culture?”

    That made me think of this story from a few weeks ago. A high school cancelled the remainder of the season for its football team after particularly shameless shenanigans by the coaching staff and one of the players. The rest of the players were really in a no win situation. Speak up and face punishment from a coaching staff that clearly lacks integrity or join the coverup. Considering that, for some players at least, a punitive loss of playing time could make the difference between a scholarship offer and none at all, whistle blowing carried significant risk. Of course, with the rest of the season cancelled, they’re in that position anyway.
    By the way, the article is worth reading, if for no reason other than a glorious Jumbo at the end.

  13. #2 Nobody goes there anymore, its too crowded.

    The early bird catches the worm at famous tourist locales in my experience. Last time I was at the Sistine Chapel there were 4 of us, including the guards.

    But the worst about famous museum pieces, etc. are those with selfie sticks who just step in front. They have no interest in looking at the thing, just getting the IG pic and checking a box.

  14. 1. My uncle has an interesting story about one type of scammer: the fake debt collector.

    These criminals buy 20 years old debt packages from collecting companies, which may include debts that were paid. These are essentially archive files of inactive accounts that have aged out personal information.

    Modern technology allows them to find people decades after the dates on the files, and the files include enough personal information for them to seem legit. Their schtick is to call insisting that an old debt remains unpaid, and the victim is being sued for collection. Sometimes the debt actually never existed, and the victim knows nothing about it, enhancing the confusion the criminal wishes to inflict.

    If a credit card payment is not coerced, the victim is informed that the sheriff has been dispatched to arrest them on the spot. (This scam once had a Houston family leave their home in a panic, and living in hotels for months out of fear.)

    My uncle got this sort of caller, who went to great lengths to convince what he thought would be an 75 year old invalid (recent heart attack and extended hospital stay were on social media) that he knew exactly where my uncle lived. After getting nowhere (my uncle is a sharp cookie, and was bored enough with bed rest to let the call continue) the criminal pulled his ace card: “I see the sheriff is at the intersection of Hwy 89 and County Road 1453, waiting for my signal to come arrest you. This is your last chance to pay.”

    My Uncle chuckled, “Jeff is in the neighborhood? Tell him to come on up, he owes me money.”

    The caller hung up.

  15. When I went to the Louvre with my high school back in the late 2000s, I ended up all but skipping the Mona Lisa (though I did catch a distant glimpse) because I didn’t want to waste time trying to fight the crowds when there was plenty of other great art to see (since we only had a handful of hours before we had to leave). It sucks to hear that it’s gotten even worse nowadays, especially as someone who likes to let other people see things (at zoos and aquariums, I like to point out interesting but elusive animals to passing guests who might otherwise miss them completely).

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