Tag Archives: GoFundMe

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2018: A Petition, A Career-Killing Joke, And Priestley’s Play [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. One more time...I’m really going to try to get a year-end ethics review up for 2018. In both of the last two years, I failed miserably, and The Ethics Alarms Best and Worst of Ethics Awards never posted. It is a very time-intensive exercise, and the traffic for the posts have never been substantially more than an average entry that is a tenth as long.

We shall see.

2. The Bad Guys, Redux. It’s a problem: one wants to curb the trend of demonizing political adversaries, and yet we keep seeing escalating examples of unequivocally despicable behavior that deserves to be demonized, because it is constant, self-righteous, and indefensible.

Over at GoFundMe, someone named Brian Kolfage, has posted a petition and a crowd-funding effort to pay for “the wall” if Congress won’t. He writes, “I have a verified blue check Facebook page as a public figure and I’m a Purple Heart Recipient triple amputee veteran.”

This is not encouraging. [Correction notice: I originally wrote “Facebook does not use a “blue check,” though Twitter and Instagram do, (and abuse it.)” I checked this, but my source was wrong. Facebook does give public figures “blue checks.”] I guess Kolfage is sort of a public figure. He is also a controversial one who has pushed extreme right-wing conspiracy theories. When asked why he doesn’t mention any of his controversial crusades and advocacy in promoting his crowdfunding effort, he has responded, “My personal issues have nothing to do with building the wall.” Fine: what do his war wounds have to do with building a wall?

Never mind: the appeal has raised over 18 million dollars to date, although the contributions have slowed considerably. It’s a futile effort; I suppose it has some value to show public support for enforcing immigration laws. If people want to donate their money to such a cause, it’s their money to give, though they might as well be making little green paper airplanes out of hundred dollar bills and sailing them into the wind.

Megan Fox reports, however, that someone who wants to punish anyone who doesn’t support open borders is taking names and doxxing contributors. She writes,

Did you donate money to the GoFundMe page to build the border wall? If you did, there’s a good chance this guy/gal or otherkin has doxxed your Facebook profile to millions of other nasty trolls who will now make it their business to harass and punish you with anonymous online mobs. Get ready, because your life is about to get more interesting. Based on my personal experience, once these monsters get your information and the directive to destroy you, the death threats, vandalism, obscene pornography, and harassment at work are not far behind. And the worst part is, no one will help you — not the police or the FBI or anyone else whose job it should be to stop intimidation and harassment.

Nice. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/28/2018: Short, But Disturbing…

Good Morning!

1. Am I a chicken? Today I am doing an early morning CLE seminar for prosecutors and government lawyers, and there are a lot of juicy issues that I am staying away from. Last year’s seminar on this topic with this audience bogged down almost immediately in political arguments, and later I received complaints, which I almost never do. Despite the fact that the ethics of government lawyers have never been more under a microscope than  now, today’sthree-hour course is going to almost (almost) completely avoid the controversies surrounding the Mueller investigation, Rosenstein, Strzok and the rest. I am going to mention Andrew McCabe’s use of GoFundMe, but only in the context of lawyers crossing ethics lines while using the web.

Is avoiding the political controversies wrong and cowardly when they are so relevant to the topic of government ethics? I’ve been thinking about this for months. In the end, I have decided that the distraction and static is more damaging to the mission—giving government lawyers a chance to tune up their ethics alarms—than the embargoed topics are essential. There is more to cover than I have time for anyway.

2. More on the baseball mind-control front. Back in 2015, then-Mets second-baseman Daniel Murphy said in an interview that he “did not agree with the lifestyle” of a gay former player. Now, two teams later, he is playing for the Chicago Cubs, and the news media has resuscitated the “scandal”—apparently not agreeing with someone else’s lifestyle when that lifestyle has been officially sanctified is a scandal now—and Murphy is being examined, prodded and watched. Are his anti-gay—apparently not “agreeing” with something is to be “anti-“ too—attitudes a burden on the team? Are they “harming” gay fans? Gays in general? It is clear that Murphy will never stop being a target of political correctness-besotted reporters until he publicly embraces his inner gayness, announces that he has forsworn his sincere religious beliefs (they are  behind the times), and publicly endorses every LGBT issue under the skies. Of course, gay baseball fans in Chicago will be happy with Murphy as long as he hits and helps the Cubs win games, which is all that should matter, and in fact is all that does.

The lesson of Murphy’s ordeal is, I suppose, that no celebrity or public figure should dare utter non-conforming opinions or views, unless they are willing to be hounded by the political correctness Furies to the grave.

I don’t believe this condition is compatible with freedom of thought and expression, but then, neither are the Furies. And those who would deny Murphy leave to “disagree” with whatever he choose to disagree with want freedom of thought and expression to be constrained, or as the Supreme Court put it, “chilled.”

3. Flag up, flag down. Apparently there are people who have nothing better to do than watch flag poles. In response to Senator McCain’s death, The White House lowered its U.S. flag to half-staff on Sunday, raised it back up and on Monday lowered it again after the death of Senator John McCain, in a break with the tradition following the passing of a national leader. Based on the reaction of my Facebook friends, this was far more outrageous than the Catholic Church facilitating child rape for the last 50 years or so. Finally, under pressure from the news media, veterans and members of Congress, President Trump  ordered flags to half-staff, and came out with a late, grudging tribute to McCain.

Yes, the President should have treated McCain like prior departed leaders of his stature and duration on the national scene.

Yes, his response was petty.

Yes, he is petty, and yes, apparently Trump being Trump will perpetually be news.

Yes, John McCain is dead, and his orders that the President of the United States isn’t welcome at his funeral still stand.

Yes, the news media’s attitude is that McCain’s pettiness was justified, because any anti-Trump attitudes are per se virtuous and just, and Trump’s pettiness is just more proof that he should be impeached.

Got it.

4. Lanny Lanny Lanny…In July, CNN published a story claiming that President Trump knew about the planned Trump Tower meeting with some Russians bearing gifts of dirt on Hillary Clinton, or so they had claimed delegation. According to their anonymous source, former Trump fixer and Olympics-level slimemeister Michael Cohen claims Trump was briefed on the meeting. It now appears that the only source for CNN’s story was Lanny Davis, Hillary Clinton’s and Bill’s fixer and Olympics-level slimemeister. Now Lanny is saying that he was somehow “misunderstood.” You see, his client testified under oath to Congress that Trump did not know, so Lanny’s leak to CNN implicated his own Client in a crime—one that he hasn’t pled guilty to yet. Now all of the media outlets, notably the Washington Post, that went into full impeachment heat over the CNN story are having to backtrack, just like Lanny. [Pointer: Liberty Girls]

Nah, Chuck Todd is right, there’s no news media anti-Trump bias!

Sarcasm aside, I find it impossible to believe that a majority of the public isn’t sick of this.

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“The Good Faith Of The Justice Department”: Sure.

“Yes, but they are fighting in good faith…”

In his scathing indictment of the ACLU (discussed here) for giving the Justice Department a partisan pass despite the dubious legality of its raid on Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen, Alan Dershowitz wrote,

“David Cole, who identifies himself as the ACLU Legal Director, said the organization relies on the good faith of the Justice Department, the FBI, and the judge who issued the warrant to assure all Americans that this raid on a lawyer’s office, is “a sign that the rule of law is alive.”

Here are the recent performances of key figures among that group that is getting the ACLU’s trust:

  •  Book-peddling, Trump-stalking James Comey says in his forthcoming book that he found evidence that “would undoubtedly have been used by political opponents to cast serious doubt on the attorney general’s independence in connection with the Clinton investigation,” and also faulted Attorney General Lynch’s decision to refer to the Clinton email investigation as a “matter.”

Loretta Lynch responded to the accusation and criticism with her own statement that concluded,

“…I have known James Comey almost 30 years. Throughout his time as Director we spoke regularly about some of the most sensitive issues in law enforcement and national security. If he had any concerns regarding the email investigation, classified or not, he had ample opportunities to raise them with me both privately and in meetings. He never did.”

  • Fired acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe is out of a job because the independent Justice Department Inspector General found that he had lied on multiple occasions, his report concluding in one of the instances, regarding leaks to the news media about the Clinton Foundation…

“While the only direct evidence regarding this McCabe-Comey conversation were the recollections of the two participants, there is considerable circumstantial evidence and we concluded that the overwhelming weight of that evidence supported Comey’s version of the conversation.”

In response, McCabe directed his counsel to write Congress that Continue reading

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Rewarding Violence And Vigilante Justice: The Unethical Glorification of Randall Margraves

That’s Margraves on the left, with Nassar, his target, cowering in red…

During the sentencing hearing for sexual predator Larry Nasser in an Eaton County, Michigan courtroom, Randall Margraves, the father of three daughters who were all molested by the former USA Women’s Gymnastics doctor, shouted “You son of a bitch!” and rushed Nassar.  He was tackled and placed in handcuffs. Before the attack, Margraves asked Judge Janice Cunningham to grant him “five minutes in a locked room with this demon. Yes or no.”  Perhaps he thought she was Ingham County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who might have granted his request based on her words at his previous sentencing hearing. Cunningham, however, refused the request.

After the father’s attempt to take the law into his own hands, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis told the stunned courtroom, “We cannot behave like this. This is letting him have his power over us….You cannot do this. I understand Mr. Margraves’ frustration, but you cannot do this. Use your words, use your experiences. Do not use physical violence.” Judge Cunningham added,

“We cannot react by using physical violence and assault against someone who has performed criminal acts. What Mr. Nassar did is horrible. It’s unthinkable, but please let the criminal justice system do what it is supposed to do and issue the punishment he should get.”

Nonetheless, no charges were filed against Margraves. Wrong.  This is irresponsible and hypocritical, as well as cowardly. (We know any punishment will be unpopular with the “Think of the children!” and the “What if it was your daughters?” crowds as well as the “Punch Nazis in the face”  constituency) If the message really is that a society can’t give in to vigilante justice and let citizens employ physical violence as extra-legal means to exact vengeance against criminals, then those who behave this way must be punished.  If they are not, then the opposite message is sent: “Well, when someone is really bad, and hurts someone you really care about, we sympathize. We understand how you feel.” What if Margraves had reached Nassar and delivered a punch to his face, fracturing his jaw? Or ripped his lips off? That he didn’t was just moral luck. Would the father have been charged then, as millions around the nation shut down their ethics alarms and cheered?

For the justice system to remains coherent and maintain integrity, the father had to be charged. Continue reading

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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

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Ethics Heroes: North Carolina Democrats

gop-firebombing

Someone firebombed a Republican Party office in North Carolina over the weekend, and added some graffiti telling “Nazi Republicans” to leave town. Police are investigating; I don’t know why, since Donald Trump, responsible and fair as ever, already announced that the Clinton campaign did it.

trump-tweet-ncInspired by a tweet from University of North Carolina’s School of Information Science’s Zeynep Tufekci, David Weinberger of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Technology launched a campaign on GoFundMe to rebuild the ruined office. He wrote on the fund’s page,
Continue reading

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“Why Does Hillary Think Her E-mail Scandal Is So Funny?” And Other Brief Ethics Notes To Get The Week Off To A Depressing Start…

W dead guns

Most Unethical Grieving Mother Of The Year

A caring  friend of Chanelle Chavis created a GoFundMe account asking for donations to Chavis’ 3-year-old daughter’s Camber’s funeral after the grieving mom told the friend that her daughter had died in an accident.  Later, moved by the plea, a woman gave  Chavis a $5,000 personal check to pay for Camber’s funeral expenses after Channelle exchanged text messages with her.

Nearly a month later, investigators found that the body of Camber Chavis was still in deep freeze at the funeral home, and no arrangements for burial had been made. Oh—this was no boating accident. The little girl had been murdered by her father.

On October 16, Chanelle Chavis pleaded guilty to obtaining money by false pretenses, a misdemeanor, and received a six month suspended sentence.

These cases of conning people into donating money are basically  all the same, but bit by bit, they make our society less kind, less generous, and less trusting. The law may see this is a minor crime, but there is nothing minor about the damage it does to our society.

Sure, We Don’t Need Guns… Continue reading

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