The Scourge Of Technologically Ignorant Judges

The American Bar Association and most state bars have added an ethical requirement for lawyers to be competent and knowledgeable regarding relevant technology. In 2012, the ABA adopted an amendment to ABA Model Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.1, comment 8, providing that “a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology . . . .” Since then, at least twenty-seven states have officially adopted Comment 8 or some version of it as part of their rules of professional conduct. It’s still a long slog; many lawyers, far too many, are limited to email and Google searches, and often aren’t sufficiently adept at either.  There should be such a requirement in every jurisdiction, and the ABA language is far too vague and lenient.

Judges, however, often make lawyers look like  cyber-whizzes. Here’s a ridiculous example from Franklin Country in Washington, where superior court judges disagreed with their clerk about transitioning from paper to electronic files.  The clerk “deemed it unnecessary” to incur the expense of maintaining duplicate paper files after a paperless filing system was implemented . The judges declared an emergency (!) and issued an order directing clerks to keep paper files. One gutsy, probably soon to be unemployed clerk refused. The judges then appointed a special prosecutor to pursue civil claims against the clerk. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: David Harsanyi, On The CNN “Climate Crisis” Town Hall

“[T]he most benign climate-change plan proposed during CNN’s seven-hour Democratic Party presidential candidate town hall was more authoritarian than anything Donald Trump has ever suggested during his presidency.”

 Federalist Senior Editor David Harsanyi, who continued, “Democrats were not merely proposing massive societal upheaval but mass coercion.”

I did not and could not watch the town hall; someone would have to pay me to do that, and frankly, anyone who would watch such a monstrosity without compensation has some serious intellectual and cognitive issues to deal with. This was a discussion among non-scientists about a complex topic none of them understand or are qualified to opine on, moderated by an equally ignorant and biased journalist, with questions being posed by activists rather than informed and open-minded citizens. It wasn’t journalism, and it wasn’t public education. Questioners were allowed to wear shirts with climate change slogans on them, like this…

One commentator correctly analogized the scene to Fox News holding an abortion town hall with all the questions coming from anti-abortion activists, with many wearing “ABORTION IS MURDER” shirts.

However, now I have had time to peruse the transcripts to the extent that I could without my head exploding, and reviewed the reviews. Not surprisngly, but depressing nonetheless, the mainstream news media whitewashed the event, focusing on the most benign and relatively reasonable-sounding statements, while ignoring the bat-crazy, “Oh-my-god-did-I-really-hear-that?” moments that should haunt the Democratic Party all the way to November 2020. The Times, for example, headlined its “review,” “CNN Climate Town Hall: Here’s What You Need to Know.”  Since the Times strategically decided that you didn’t need to know that old Joe Biden’s left eye filled with blood, readers should understand what THAT means: “Here’s what we want you to know.”

The Times and other mainstream media organs don’t want you to know, for example, what Hirsanyi accurately points out: the party that has been promoting the big lie that President Trump is a dangerous authoritarian and a threat to democracy is led by individuals who advocate gutting the economy, democracy and personal liberties to address an “emergency” hyped in order to justify doing so. For example,

  • Joe Biden was asked by  Anderson Cooper if the Green New Deal, which to the extent that it means anything stands for banning   fossil fuels, 99 percent of cars and planes, retrofitting our buildings and eliminating meat within the next decade, “goes too far,” and was “unrealistic, promising too much.” Joe answered, “No, no it’s not.” It  “deserves an enormous amount of credit,” said Joe. Recall that Saikat Chakrabarti, the former chief of staff of Representative Ocasio-Cortez and widely believed to be the main architect of the GND, told the Washington Post  that ” it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all, because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

In other words, declare an emergency to take over the economy.

To be fair, does anyone think that Biden has read the Green New Deal? Continue reading

Observations On The President’s Stupid Hurricane Map “Scandal.”

Destined to take its place in “resistance” and mainstream media obsessions along side President Trump’s stubborn misrepresentation of his inauguration crowd, the controversy over the bizarrely altered Dorian path  map was one more in a long nauseating chain of similar incidents. If you were lucky enough to miss it, here’s the scoop.

In the middle of a Labor Day tweeting frenzy, President Trump issued an erroneous tweet that Alabama would be affected by Hurricane Dorian. I have no trouble in filing this part under “Who cares?” He’s not a meteorologist, a scientist or even a relaible source of information. Over-heated and contrived complaints that his goof “endangered citizens” are just familiar Trump derangement: anyone who depends on the President for weather predictions when there are so many obviously more reliable authorities available may be doing the gene pool a favor.

Officials with the National Weather Service quickly issued a public correction, tweeting, “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.” That should have ended it

But, in the throes of the kind of inexplicable, self-destructive, foolish impulse that we have all grown to expect and love, President Trump then appeared in a video released by the White House in which he displayed a weather forecast map, dated from 11 a.m. on Aug. 29, supposedly showing that Alabama would  be affected. The graphic appeared  to have been crudely altered with a black Sharpie, however, as you can see above.

“We had, actually, our original chart was that it was going to be hit — hitting Florida directly,” Trump says. “That was the original chart,” Trump said. “It could’ve, uh, was going towards the Gulf.”  Later, he tweeted out that chart, saying,

This was the originally projected path of the Hurricane in its early stages. As you can see, almost all models predicted it to go through Florida also hitting Georgia and Alabama. I accept the Fake News apologies!

Here’s the  chart that he tweeted:

It also includes misleading lines drawn onto the graphic.

Why, why, WHY??

Observations: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Catch-Up, 8/11/2019: Cape Cod Dreams And Nightmare Jerks

Sigh.

This would be the week that my dad typically took his vacation. At this moment, when I was 10, I would be on a beach in Dennisport on the Cape, sampling the sandwiches my mother packed,  sitting in bathing trunks on my father’s army blanket that he carried all over Europe during the war, and listening to Curt Gowdy describe the Red Sox game on mt transistor radio  . Nothing could have been farther from my mind than ethics. Those were the days…

1. Once again, 7-11 ethics in Alexandria, VA.. I’ve written about several ethics encounters at my  local convenience store. This time I was patiently waiting for a space to open up (eventually I am going to tell one of the jerks who have finished their errands and sit in the space texting and surfing on their smart phones while others are desperately seeking parking spaces that he or she is an antisocial blight on the community) when a car backed out almost in front of my vehicle. before I could slide in around him from the right, an SUV that just entered the parking lost quickly moved into the space. The driver had seen me; he just did it because he could. As the young black male moved toward  the store, I got out of my car and shouted: “Classy. You knew I was waiting for the space, and you jumped in ahead of me anyway. You’re an asshole.”

Two thirty-something African American women exited the car in the space next to the one I have just lost. “Sir?” one said. “My girl friend just said exactly what you did. He is an asshole. Some black men just don’t care abut anybody, and I can say that, because I’m black. It really pisses me off. Look—take my space. I can park across the street. Please.” I told her that really wasn’t necessary, but she insisted.

My wife came back to the car after she had purchased the items we came for, and as we drove away, I could see the Good Samaritan giving hell to the young man who had snatched my space.

2. Hollywood ethics, confused as usual. Universal is temporarily cancelling the release of “The Hunt,” an R-rated satire in which progressive elites hunt “deplorables” for fun.  The film was scheduled to open in September. The reason for the cancellation was apparently the recent mass shootings. “While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for “The Hunt,” after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film,” the studio said in yesterday’s statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”

Interesting question: what is the “right time” to release a film like that? The answer, I would think is either “never,” or “now is as good a time as any.” It’s an ugly, tasteless, offensive idea for a film, but Ethics Alarms will defend to the death Hollywood’s right to make ugly, tasteless, offensive films. On the other hand, maybe releasing this film while the antifa is roaming the fruited plains and Democrats are encouraging people to harass and attack anyone wearing a MAGA cap is a tiny bit irresponsible. On the other hand—there I am with three hands again—if we are going to go down the road of speculating what bad behavior movies and TV might trigger, we’ll end up with Care Bears, Smurfs, and not much else. Continue reading

Thank You, FaceApp!

Were you aware of FaceApp? It was a suddenly popular mobile face-editing application for your smartphone that would take your photo and show how might age over the next half century. It was all the wave, until there was a contemporaneous story about law enforcement going into facial recognition software big time. Oh oh…”Minority Report”! Suddenly someone read the app’s privacy policy. The company was based in Russia! It could sell your face to be used in subway gonorrhea ads, and there was nothing you could do about it! The Democratic National Committee freaked, and sent out an alert imploring those who work on presidential campaigns to delete the app from their phones because FaceApp’s creator, Wireless Lab, is based in St. Petersburg, Russia. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer then went overboard, as Chuck is wont to do, and demanded that FBI and the Federal Trade Commission  investigate FaceApp, because the company could pose “national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens.”

ARRRHHHHH!!!!

The app’s creators rushed to contain the damage. FaceApp’s CEO swore that the company’s servers are not based in Russia,  that no user data is sent there, the photos will not end up in  facial recognition databases.  FaceApp does not, it is told, “sell or share any user data with any third parties.”

Google also swears that it won’t read our email. And don’t get me started about Facebook…

FaceApp’s privacy policy asks for “irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully paid, transferable sub-licensable license” for the pictures of your face. That should set off ethics alarms, or better yet, privacy alarms, for anyone who reads it, which means virtually nobody. I’m hardly any better: many years ago I used a Simpsons app to convert my photo into Simpsons Jack… Continue reading

The Great World War I Dogfight Photo Hoax

You are probably familiar with the famous Cottingley fairy photography hoax (there’s even a movie about it starring Peter O’Toole) in which two young British girls fooled much of the world—and credulous believer in the supernatural Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—into thinking that they had captured photographic proof that the fairy folk of legend existed. That hoax, however, was a mere bagatelle compared to this one.

In the early 1930s, a Mrs. Gladys Maud Cockburne-Lange said she was the widow of a Royal Flying Corps pilot. She presented  stunning photographs of scenes of aerial combat during World War I, apparently taken in the air from a combat biplane. Her late husband, she said, had defied the RFC’s regulations and mounted a camera on his plane, tying its shutter action to his machine gun. The resulting photos were the first  visual representation of British and German planes fighting each other taken from the air. They showed  bi-panes crashing into each other, being shot to pieces, catching on fire, and even pilots falling from the sky.

All previous photos of  WWI aerial “dogfights” had been taken from the ground, so this unexpected  trove of photographs caused a sensation.  The images were rapidly sold to newspapers, galleries, and publishers. Mrs. Cockburne-Langes sold 34 of the photos to one  publisher for  $20,000, a huge sum during the Great Depression, and they were later published in a popular book, “Death in the Air: The War Diary and Photographs of a Flying Corps Pilot.” by an anonymous author.

Unlike the fairy photo hoax, however, the truth about these photos took hald a century to uncover.  In 1984, the Smithsonian Institute received a donation of materials from Wesley David Archer, an American pilot who had served with the RFC and then…wait for it… became a special-effects technician in Hollywood.  Air and Space Museum curator Karl S. Schneide and Peter M. Grosz, an aviation expert, investigated the materials, and discovered  that in  some of the photographs, the wires holding up the model airplanes used to create the illusion of mid-air dogfights had yet to be airbrushed out. The materials also contained a diary entry that revealed the entire scheme. Continue reading

“Three Strikes And You’re Incompetent” : The Wernher Von Braun Fiasco, And What It Tells Us About Journalism

Washington radio station WTOP decided to put a local spin on the anniversary of the moon walk by telling its website viewers about the crucial contributions to our nation’s space achievements  by “a brilliant German-American rocket engineer who is laid to rest in Alexandria, Virginia.”

The article, by Dick Uliano, was classic hagiography. No, nothing in it was false, but if a reader knew anything about Wernher Von Braun, it felt like a whitewash, which it was. Oh, there were plenty of hints in the piece that Von Braun was a Nazi, with off-hand sentences amid the upbeat prose, like “In 1932 he began work on Germany’s liquid-fuel rockets that pounded western Europe in World War II,” and “At the close of World War II, von Braun and his rocket team surrendered into the welcoming arms of the United States, which immediately put them to work in America’s space race against the Soviet Union.” Nonetheless, the article never connected the dots, leaving out the mandatory direct statement telling readers what every literate citizen knew in the 1960s: Werner Von Braun was not only a Nazi, but an unapologetic one. It is “fake news” to write about ‘the Alexandria man who was critical to the Apollo program’ without including this information. That is a material omission.

It’s true: the space program relied heavily on the contributions and expertise of Nazi scientists. This is a classic example of utilitarianism of the most unsentimental and most brutal variety. Had he not cut a deal with the Americans, von Braun very likely would have been tried and convicted of war crimes. The U.S. correctly and pragmatically concluded that making a pact with a devil was nonetheless essential to national security. That does not mean, however, that there was anything admirable about von Braun whatsoever. At best he was amoral, a mercenary. At worst he was as much of a monster as any of Hitler’s enablers. Continue reading