Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/2020: And The Ethics Beat Goes On…

Good morning.

That’s a perfunctory good morning, to be transparent. Mourning would be more accurate. Yesterday’s news that Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a man who had impressed me with his leadership ability, personality and, yes, ethical values, was exposed by an investigation as the primary instigator of cheating schemes that involved two baseball teams and World Series champions (the Astros and the Red Sox), disillusioned two fan bases, harmed his sport, and led, so far, to the fall of two of the games most successful and admired management figures. Cora is also the first minority manager the Red Sox have had, and was regarded as a transformational figure for the team and the city, both of which have long and troubled histories of prejudice and discrimination. Smart, articulate, creative, funny, brave, knowledgeable—all of his positive qualities, rendered useless by the lack of functioning ethics alarms.

1. Congratulations to Ann Althouse…on this, the 16th anniversary of her blog. With the demise of Popehat, she supplanted Ken White as my most admired blogger, and most quoted by far. The fact that her fiercely non-partisan analysis of ethics issues so frequently tracks with my own is a constant source of comfort for me , particularly during these difficult times. Ann has an advantage that I don’t—“I only write about what interests me” is her description of her field of commentary— because this blog is limited to ethics and leadership. Fortunately, Ann is interested in ethics, though she seldom says so explicitly.

2. Bernie vs Liz. Feeling that Bernie Sanders was pulling away as the standard-bearer of the Leftest of the Democratic base as her own support appears to be waning, Elizabeth Warren went low, and had her aides reveal the content of what was supposed to be two-hour a private summit between the fake Native American and the Communist sympathizer in December 2018. According to them, Bernie told Warren that he disagreed with her assertion that a woman could win the 2020 election. Bernie denies it. Observations:

  • This kind of thing stinks, though it is kind of fun to see Democrats dirtied by it instead of President Trump. Anonymous accounts of what was said in phone conversations and private meetings in which the participants reasonably believed they could speak freely are unreliable, untrustworthy and unethical.
  • The Warren camp’s spin on Bernie’s alleged statement is that it shows he’s a sexist. That makes no sense. If I say that I can’t win the election in 2020, does that mean I’m biased against myself? There is no logical reason to assume an opinion like “A woman can’t win is 2020” represents bias, though it could. I will state here and now that a gay man can’t be elected President in 2020, even if that man weren’t a pandering asshole like Pete Buttigieg, but I am not anti-LGBTQ is any way. The statement reflects my objective analysis of the state of the culture.
  • I suspect that Sanders meant, “YOU can’t win in 2020, nor can Kamala Harris nor any of the other equally weak announced female candidates.” The truth may hurts, but that doesn’t make it biased
  • (Psst! Bernie! A delusional septuagenarian socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union can’t win either!)

3. No, the fact that there are no more African-Americans running for President doesn’t mean an African-American can’t win. It means weak African-American candidates like Cory Booker, who just dropped out, and Kamala Harris, who is long gone, can’t win, not because of their race, but because they can’t convince voters that they could do the job. Continue reading

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

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

The CNN “Joke About Donald Trump’s Plane Crashing”: Now THAT’S A “Nothingburger”

But it’s nice to know that some people at CNN now know how Billy Bush felt.

A website called FTVLive  obtained video of CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux talking to her crew and her producer before going live on CNN, as they waited for Trump’s  press conference. His plane to yet land.

On the video, a producer can be heard saying “When I do this, it means his plane’s landed’ and later, she seems to be saying, dead-pan”That means his plane’s crashed….just kidding” There is some incomprehensible chatter briefly after that.

Thanks to some websites like Mediaite on a slow news day, this gourmet “nothingburger” was widely and critically circulated. “The crew decided to joke around about a pretty grisly topic,” intoned Mediaite’s  Justin Baragona.

This, believe it or not, prompted CNN to issue an apology! This…

“An unfortunate and inappropriate remark was made by one of our producers off camera yesterday. We have apologized to the Trump transition team, and the Producer has been disciplined.”

Oh, balderdash. There was nothing “unfortunate and inappropriate” about that comment, which was not an expression of hostility to Trump, or anything else but on the job self-mockery. I would make that joke. I have made essentially that joke in various settings. At a surprise party for my mother, for example: “OK, I’ll make this sign when she’s coming up the walk, this sign when she’s at the door, this sign if she trips at the door and falls down the stairs, and this sign if she’s attacked by the neighbor’s dog.”  So what? (It got a big laugh by the way. Would Justin have laughed? I don’t care.) Continue reading

Why The World Doesn’t Work: The Case Of Jackie Kennedy’s Chef

hustebookThe world doesn’t work, and Ethics is always struggling to avoid losing ground. I collect stories that show why this is. Here is one from the obituary page, the saga of  the departed Annemarie Huste, who was Jacqueline Kennedy’s private chef.

In 1966, the former First Lady moved to New York from Washington, D.C., and in need of a private chef—rich person, you know— hired Huste, a young German immigrant whose previous employer, theater impresario Billy Rose (of “Jumbo” fame!), who had just died, rendering her skills superfluous. Huste did the job to Mrs. Kennedy’s satisfaction,  feeding the occasional hoards of family members who came to visit,  accompanying the Jackie, Caroline and John-John to the Kennedy compound Hyannis Port,  in the summers and playing with the children of JFK.

Then, in 1968, Weight Watchers Magazine approached her about cooperating in a feature called “Jackie Kennedy’s Gourmet Chef Presents Her Weight Watchers Recipes.” Huste dished about Jackie’s diets and dress sizes in the article, never asking for her famous employer’s permission or consent. Jackie Kennedy was horrified, and even tried to stop publication, something the Kennedy family was and is very good at. This time, it didn’t work.

A few weeks later,  Huste gave an interview to Maxine Cheshire, then the “beautiful people” gossip columnist for The Washington Post and syndicated nationally. In return for  inside-the-Kennedy-home details, Cheshire made Huste sound like the coming star of gourmet cookery, hinting that a television show, a cookbook, wealth and fame were just around the corner. What was really around the corner was unemployment: Jackie fired Annemarie Huste, who deserved it. Continue reading

Nobody Cares, But NBC Has Been Wildly Unethical In The Trump-Bush Video Affair

nbc-peacock-ap

NBC deserves to be condemned for its conduct in many ways in reference to the Trump Pussy Tape episode, going back eleven years.

1. NBC technicians allowed Trump to continue talking without his realizing that his microphone was on. Unethical, and unprofessional, as well as a pure Golden Rule violation. Basic decency, fairness and professionalism requires that when a guest is doing this, his mistake must be  made known to him at the earliest possible time. This is the rule when someone continues to speak on a conference call believing the call has ended. It is the ethical thing to do  when you are in a bathroom stall and your opponents in a law suit start discussing strategy while they are washing their hands. I have several times, at taped seminars, begun to answer questions during a break and realized that I was still being recorded. Sometimes a technician has reminded me. Worse (but funnier) I have done a full “Naked Gun”, using the Men’s Room while wearing a live mic…and the technician dashed in to get me to turn it off, just in time. (Well, almost.) Allowing a guest to embarrass himself on tape as Trump did is despicable and unprofessional in every way.

2. NBC betrayed its own employee, Billy Bush, by not alerting him, either.  Disloyal, unfair, and uncaring.

3. Once the recording was made, it should have been destroyed as soon as anyone in authority realized the participants were speaking without knowing the mics were on.

4. Attorney Robert Barnes makes a compelling argument that NBC’s conduct violated California Penal Code 632, which criminalizes the act of any person who “without the consent of all parties” records their conversations. Of course, violating the law is also unethical. Trump might  have a just lawsuit, though the damage can’t be undone: the pussy’s out of the bag, so to speak.

5. Bush, as an NBC employee, should have been told about the recording and its contents long, long before it was made public. NBC was obligated to inform him as a basic courtesy. Continue reading

From An Ethics Dunce Playmate Of The Year, A Full Pazuzu!

dani-mathers post

Dani Mathers is a former Playmate of the Year. On the left below, you see Dani as she appears to unknowing bystanders; on the right, the oil portrait of herself that she keeps in the attic.

Dani+Mathers

Befitting the character and soul accurately portrayed by the portrait, the skin-deep beauty took a cellphone photo of an unaware naked female member of LA Fitness in the gym’s shower. Then Dani posted the pic on Snapchat with the caption, “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either.”

The actual photo does not have the victim’s body blotted out.

Said LA Fitness of  Dani:”Her behavior is appalling and puts every member’s privacy at risk. We have handled this internally and also notified the police.”

Of course cell phone photography is prohibited in locker rooms. Doing what Mathers did may also be against the law.

Caught with her ugly soul exposed to the world, the model reverted to full Pazuzu mode. Pazuzu was the demon who made poor Linda Blair say all those horrible things in “The Exorcist,” and the Pazuzu Excuse is what Ethics Alarms calls apologies for horrible statements or conduct that include such incredible statements as “Those statements do not express my real beliefs,” “That doesn’t reflect who I am,” and the always popular “That wasn’t me.” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “Rear Window” Ethics At The Ball Game

RearWindow1

The New York Daily News recounts the tale of two sisters attending an Atlanta Braves game who exposed a man’s cheating wife by taking photos of her as she apparently sexted another man with her arm around her husband. Delana and Brynn Hinson posted photos of her texts on Twitter.

The sisters said they slipped a note to the woman’s suspected husband as he was leaving, which read,

“Your wife is cheating on you. Look at the messages under Nancy! It’s really a man named Mark Allen.”

You can read the details—accurate or not—here.

I don’t care if the story is exactly as it was reported. Let’s assume it is.

The Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for the day is this:

Did the sisters behave ethically when they informed the husband about his wife’s secret texting?

Continue reading

Phtography Ethics, Parenting Ethics, Face-stomping Ethics

no photographs

Item:

“A 32-year-old city resident was arrested for allegedly stomping on the face of a college student who was taking pictures at a Liberty Heights park on Tuesday afternoon. Victoria M. Torres, of 211 William St., was taken into custody for assaulting a 22-year-old student who was taking snapshots for a “photography class project” near the water park in Van Horn Park, Springfield police spokesman Sgt. John Delaney said.”

The student was taking photos of Torres’s young daughter, among other subjects.

More…

“Torres approached the photographer and “demanded in a threatening manner” that she delete any pictures containing images of her children, according to Delaney. The student, who wasn’t publicly identified by police, tried to avoid a confrontation and started to leave the park.”As she was walking out, the outraged female came over and punched her twice in the face, grabbed her by the hair and pulled her to the ground,” Delaney said. Torres then “kicked the victim and stomped her face” after the photographer had fallen to the ground, Delaney said.Torres also tried to take the woman’s camera and equipment, valued at about $4,000. Torres grabbed hold of the camera strap in effort to pull the camera from the student’s neck, Delaney said.”

Let’s stipulate that stomping on the student’s face…indeed, stomping on faces generally, is per se unethical. Now that this is settled, did the t mother have a legitimate objection? Was the student behaving ethically?

Yes, and no. Continue reading