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

Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum!”

Aaron Paschal’s Comment of the Day is on a topic that comes up here often, the distinction between having a right to do something, and claiming it is right to do it. It also is relevant to the weekend post about objections at my ethics seminar to my referring to Harvey Weinstein as an asshole. The student Aaron describes in his comment also earned that sobriquet, and it is descriptive, not uncivil, to employ it. (Aaron uses the lesser term “jackass,” which I view as inadequate under the circumstances.)

Here’s Aaron’s Comment of the Day from the recent “Open Forum!” (I’ll be back at the end):

My wife took my son to his college registration day yesterday. The parents were separated out from the kids, and so she sat her laptop down by a balcony outside the Starbucks at the student center.

While she sat there working, a young college – I’ll call him a guy – walked up to her, complimented her laptop, then proceeded to climb on top of her table to scale the balcony wall and reach the Starbucks. She protested “can I help you?!?” As he stood, to which he only responded “nah, you’re just in my way”

Shortly after this, he placed his order and stood at the balcony rail over her head, and struck up a conversation with a friend on his cell phone about anal sex and the delightful anal rape videos he had watched online recently. A nearby man shortly had enough of this, as he was visiting with his 3 year old and 7 year old children, who were also listening to the conversation.

Upon being confronted, the young college student exploded in indignation, affirming that he had first amendment rights to say what he wanted in public, and how the others were racist against him due to the fact that he was gay. When asked to calm down, he began chanting “free speech” and “you don’t have a problem with your president talking about PUSSY, do you?” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/15/2019: Patriots Day! Jackie Robinson Day!

Good morning!

It’s funny: over at Ann Althouse’s blog, she’s complaining about how there’s nothing to write about. From an ethics perspective, I am finding too much to write about, especially since, unlike Ann, I still have to work for a living.

1. Quick: what does Patriots Day commemorate (and no, it’s not Tom Brady)? My home state of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine (which was once part of the Bay State), and Wisconsin observe the holiday, which honors the twin battles of Lexington and Concord, the confrontations with the British (on April 19, 1775, the day after “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”) that launched the Revolutionary War. I visited both battlefields more times than I could count when I was living in Arlington, Mass., right next to Lexington. That battlefield, what’s left of it, is in the middle of busy streets on all sides; it’s hard to imagine the scene as described in the song above from “1776.” Concord’s battlefield, in contrast, is almost exactly as it was in 1775.

All the publicity, even in Boston, about today will be dominated by the running of the Boston Marathon, but attention should be paid to the inspiring story of how ragtag groups of volunteers faced off against the trained soldiers of the most powerful country on Earth, sending the message that this rebellion would not be so easy to put down.  49 Colonists died, 39 were wounded, and five were unaccounted for. The British lost 73, while 174 were wounded,and 26 were missing.

2. It’s also Jackie Robinson Day. In every MLB game today, every player will wear Jackie’s number 42. The best way to honor Jackie for the rest of us is to tell his story to someone who doesn’t know who Jackie Robinson was, and it is shocking how many such people there are. The film “42” does an excellent job of dramatizing how Jackie broke the color barrier in baseball, simultaneously weakening segregation everywhere. The Ethics Alarms post about Robinson is here. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: PBS Host Christiane Amanpour, Or “Why The Hell Is The Government Funding A Journalist Who Hasn’t Figured Out The First Amendment Yet?”

PBS journalist Christiane Amanpour, not to bias you against her or anything but merely to remind you who this pompous blight on American journalism is, once defended biased journalism, saying,

“There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because when you are neutral you are an accomplice. Objectivity doesn’t mean treating all sides equally. It means giving each side a hearing.”

——Christiane Amanpour in 1996, responding to critics who called her reporting on the Bosnian War biased.

Then there was this Amanpour quote, after Benjamin Netanyahu correctly objected to the Obama Administration’s deal with Iran… Continue reading

Tales Of The Slippery Slope: Amazon And Censorship

From the New York Times:

Amazon has removed the online listings for two books that claim to contain cures for autism, a move that follows recent efforts by several social media sites to limit the availability of anti-vaccination and other pseudoscientific material. The books, “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” and “Fight Autism and Win,” which had previously been listed for sale in Amazon’s marketplace, were not available on Wednesday. The company confirmed that the listings had been removed, but declined to discuss why or whether similar books would be taken down in the future.

And what does “similar books” mean?

Based on what I’ve seen from our tech giants, “similar books” could soon include a scientist’s arguments against climate change, a hagiography of President Trump, or an expose of the  misconduct of the Obama Administration. Amazon has decided that anti-vax arguments are dangerous and wrong, and though I happen to agree with them, it is not Amazon’s job to decide what ideas, positions, opinions and theories are worthy of public consumption. Amazon dominated the book retail business (and many other businesses as well). Its censorship policies constrain debate, the free expression of ideas, and the expression of dissent from the majority.

Defenders of civil liberties and freedom of speech must express their disapproval of Amazon’s Big Brother act, even if it has the “right” to abuse its power, and even if it isn’t the government choosing which citizens to muzzle. Conduct like this places me squarely on the side of Elizabeth Warren, who is advocating breaking up companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook. When we start allowing speech labeled “dangerous” or “untrue” to be blocked, no matter who is doing the blocking, then we are damaging our democracy and the free circulation of ideas, as well as abetting elite attempts at thought control.

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/28/19: Ethics Avalanche!

ARRGH!!!

Too many festering ethics issues to cover in as much detail as they deserve…

1. The deterioration of the New York Times, and with it respectable print journalism, continues. Over the weekend, the Times published a very large, front page diagram showing the President in the middle of a circle of indicted aides, advisers and others with some connection to his campaign. (I’m looking at it right now; I can’t find a version on the web to post.) It belongs in the Guilt by Association Hall of  Shame, and some other shameful halls as well. Literally none of the indictments involve any campaign activities by Trump or his campaign that would constitute illicit cooperation with Russia to affect the 2016 election—you know, the supposed point of having a Special Counsel. The bulk are so-called “process” violations, which means that the individuals lied in some aspect of the investigation, and was charged to pressure him to “flip” on the President.The one individual whose charges are linked to Trump is Michael Cohen, whose actual crimes had nothing to do with Trump, and whose alleged crime involving Trump–paying off an adulterous sex partner to keep quiet—is probably not a crime at all, even though Cohen pleaded guilty to it to save his skin.. The graphic proves nothing and clarifies nothing. It is just raw meat for Trump-haters, asserting guilt without substance. Similar circles could be assembled around many, many national figures and politicians (Bill Clinton comes to mind, and Barack Obama), especially following two years of targeting their associates.

2. Ann Althouse vivisects Tom Brokaw.  Just go to this link and read Ann’s expert commentary on Tom Brokaw’s bizarre turn on “Meet the Press,” and the even more bizarre tweets he issued to apologize to the social media mob for opining that “Hispanics should work harder at assimilation.” (Hispanics assimilate just fine, especially when they are here legally.)

Yes, poor Tom really did tweet, ” my tweet portal is whack i hv been trying to say i am sorry i offended and i so appreciate my colleague.” 

3. This would be an unethical quote of the day except that CNN fake media ethics watchdog Brian Stelter says and writes unethical things so often that it is no longer worth highlighting. Stelter re-tweeted with favor this quote from a panelist on his show as they discussed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex:

“She’s got a target on her back because she ticks every box that makes conservative men uncomfortable.”

Of course, this is pure race- and gender-baiting, the progressive and media reflex response to any criticism of female or minority Democrats, and insulting to women and progressive men as well. I assume many of the latter—the smart ones, anyway—are also made “uncomfortable” by arrogant, ignorant, under-qualified, anti-Semitic, Socialist naifs who garner a disproportionate amount of publicity while advocating absurd and irresponsible policies. A member of Congress who blathers like AOC would be like fingernails on a blackboard if she were a midde-aged he of Nordic descent.

Boy, Stelter is terrible. I hereby apologize to Howard Kurtz for being so hard on him when he had Stelter’s job. Compared to Stelter, Howard is me. Continue reading

Shouting “Heil Trump!” In A Crowded Theater

Anthony Derlunas, 58, a drunken idiot attending a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” in Baltimore, suddenly started shouting “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump!”  He told police that his display was motivated by his hatred of the President.

Is it fair to call this “Trump Derangement”? I think so. I think that’s fair.

He told an officer he “had been drinking heavily throughout the night” before his performance at the Hippodrome Theatre, which understandably unsettled the audience, many of whom apparently thought that another anti-Jewish massacre was underway like the one in the Pittsburgh synagogue last month that killed 11 people. Some people started running, other wept.  According to the police report, Derlunas explained that the final scene of the musical before intermission,  depicting a Jewish wedding celebration disrupted by a Russian pogrom, reminded him of his hatred for the President—I know I’m always reminded of Donald Trump when I see “Fiddler on the Roof”—prompting his outburst. Derlunas was surprised, he said, when people around him became angry.  You can certainly understand his confusion: all he was doing is shouting “Heil!” during a musical about Jewish history and culture. Somepeople get offended so easily.

Baltimore Police escorted Derlunas out a few minutes later, a police spokeswoman said, and the show continued.

He wasn’t charged with anything, though the theater has banned him for life. “As reprehensible as those words are, they are considered protected free speech because nobody was directly threatened,” police spokesman Matt Jablow said in an email. Continue reading