Wait, WHAT? NOW They Tell There Are “Two Big Flaws” in Every Computer?

(That’s Meltdown on the left, Spectre on the right.)

From the New York Times:

Computer security experts have discovered two major security flaws in the microprocessors inside nearly all of the world’s computers. The two problems, called Meltdown and Spectre, could allow hackers to steal the entire memory contents of computers, including mobile devices, personal computers and servers running in so-called cloud computer networks.

There is no easy fix for Spectre, which could require redesigning the processors, according to researchers. As for Meltdown, the software patch needed to fix the issue could slow down computers by as much as 30 percent — an ugly situation for people used to fast downloads from their favorite online services. “What actually happens with these flaws is different and what you do about them is different,” said Paul Kocher, a researcher who was an integral member of a team of researchers at big tech companies like Google and Rambus and in academia that discovered the flaws.

Meltdown is a particular problem for the cloud computing services run by the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft. By Wednesday evening, Google and Microsoft said they had updated their systems to deal with the flaw.

Here’s the best part:

“Amazon told customers of its Amazon Web Services cloud service that the vulnerability “has existed for more than 20 years in modern processor architectures.”

We trust the tech giants and computer manufacturers to give us secure devices. We then entrust our businesses and lives to these devices.

That there were such massive “flaws” in every computer, and that it took 20 years for those whom we trusted to discover them, is an unprecedented breach of competence, trust and and responsibility. Imagine auto manufacturers announcing that every car in the world had a “flaw” that might cause a fatal crash. I see no difference ethically.

And why is this story buried in the Times’ Business Section, and not on the front page, not just of the Times, but of every newspaper?

 

On Unions, Abusive Flight Attendants, Golf Balls In My Hash Browns, And Res Ipsa Loquitur

By now you have heard the latest example of Outrage in the Air, the American Airlines flight attendant running amuck. A video of  part of the incident was posted by a passenger, Surain Adyanthaya, who uploaded it to Facebook. Adyanthaya wrote about what she witnessed on Flight 591  from San Francisco International Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, saying,

“OMG! AA Flight attendant violently took a stroller from a lady with her baby on my flight, hitting her and just missing the baby. Then he tried to fight a passenger who stood up for her.”

The basic facts of the episode have been confirmed by multiple passengers, and the altercation has been reported across the news media. Then there is the video. It  does not show the stroller incident that Adyanthaya described, but it does show a female passenger standing at the front of the plane, sobbing uncontrollably as she holds her baby, as she says, “You can’t use violence with a baby.Just give me back my stroller, please.”

A male passenger seated near the front of the plane suddenly comes to the woman’s aid, saying,  “No, I’m not going to sit here and watch this stuff.” He then stands up and demands to know the male flight attendant’s name. The flight attendant who grabbed the stroller appears, prompting the male passenger to warn him.

“Hey, bud, you do that to me, and I’ll knock you flat,” he says. “Hey, you stay out of this!” the flight attendant shouts back at him, pointing his finger at the passenger. He then steps forward, challenging the passenger. “Hit me,” the flight attendant says, motioning with his hands. “Come on, hit me! You don’t know what the story is!”

“I don’t care what the story is,” the defiant male passenger replies. “You almost hurt a baby.”

Boy, from now on, I’m flying United. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day (2): “A Definitive Tome About Pit Bulls, Which The Breed Bigots Will Ignore, Naturally”

No, this isn’t my sister’s Havanese, but you get the idea…

“There are two kinds of people…” and one of the most undeniable ways to finish this much-worn sentence is “those who understand dogs and those who don’t.” To understand them is to marvel at them, cherish them, and love them. Not to understand them, as an astounding number of humans do, is to live in ignorance and fear, and to miss out on one of the mystical joys of life: bonding with an animal.

I never fully appreciated this until my younger sister under went a rare midlife conversion, changing sides from the canine-phobic to the dog-allied.  Divorced, she was faced with an empty nest, and though she had always emulated my mother, who had nothing but contempt for dogs (cats too), decided that she could not bear returning to a house with no one to express joy that she had returned.

My wife, who had witnessed  my sister’s callous treatment of our dogs, who were greatly insulted, was dubious, and was certain her new companion, an abusrdly cute, cheerful, silly, dumb as a brick Havanese named “Elphie,” would be neglected. She has never been happier to be wrong.

My sister’s entire attitude has changed, not merely toward dogs, but toward the whole of humanity and the world. She is happier, friendlier, more resilient and less anxious. She has fearlessly assisted a huge lost wolf hybrid; she has guided a wandering Great Dane home; she lets pit bulls leap up to lick her. Now she complains that she missed so many years of interaction with what she has learned are fascinating, empathetic, loving creatures with individual personalities and the ability to surprise and delight every single day.

I thought of my sister as I read Lisa Weber’s Comment of the Day on the most recent Ethics Alarms post about the other side. Here it is:

A dog’s heart is cooperation over competition. Here in SoCal the shelters are full of Pitties and Chi’s and their mixes. I blame greedy ignorant breeders, a throw away society that thinks nothing of getting rid of dogs that become an inconvenience, and a lazy society that won’t put the effort and time into researching before acquiring, socializing and training….but still wants a puppy over an adult dog…

I sit at my desk, typing this listening to the soft snores of the dogs at my feet. All 16 of them. Yesterday there were 17. I had to help one old fellow shuffle off the mortal coil yesterday. Some asshole dumped him and his elderly lady friend at the shelter, claiming they “found them running stray”. Because they were “stray” the shelter by law had to hold them 5 days for their owner to reclaim them, which never happened. See in our state, it costs $80 to surrender your dog, but to drop off a stray is free. Hence we get a lot of strays that certainly weren’t stray.

The little old pug dogs, Monty and Matilda, sat on the cold, cement floor of a kennel terrified for 5 days before I could be allowed to get them. By then they both had caught kennel cough and an intestinal bug. Matilda has a collapsing trachea, and her kennel cough quickly turned to pneumonia. I had to put her in my ICU cage on oxygen twice to save her life. She is recovering now, but still doesn’t want to eat much. Her boyfriend Monty had bizarrely abnormal x-rays and an ultrasound revealed a huge tumor on his liver which was displacing his other organs. I had him just two weeks before having to let him go. At least he died warm and loved with gentle hands and the tears of someone who loved him on his coat instead of on the cold cement with a heart stick. That is how he would have died if I didn’t intervene. Both of them little old balls of furry love. How can humans fail their oldest companions so completely?

Continue reading

Did Apple Kill The Little Girl?

driving_-selfie-car

A Christmas Eve tragedy from 2014 has sparked another ethically provocative lawsuit.

James and Bethany Modisette were driving through Denton County, Texas, on the evening of December 24, 2014, when they had to stop their car due to a traffic incident ahead of them on the Interstate. Their children, Isabella, 8, and Moriah, 5, were in the back seat, Everyone in the vehicle had a seat belt fastened.

Meanwhile, Garrett Wilhelm, idiot, was chatting away on his phone using the FaceTime app, and didn’t notice that the traffic ahead of him was stopped. His car rear-ended the Modisettes’ vehicle at 65 mph. Little Moriah was killed.

Now the Modisettes have filed a lawsuit against Apple, the maker of the app and the iPhone it was used with, citing a “failure to install and implement the safer, alternative design … to ‘lock out’ the ability of drivers to utilize the FaceTime application.” In the suit, the parents claim the company didn’t warn FaceTime users like Wilhelm that “the product was likely to be dangerous when used or misused in a reasonably foreseeable manner.” Continue reading

Now THIS Is A Conflict Of Interest…Or Is It?

alton_attorney_accidentally_sues_himself

Is it a conflict of interest for a lawyer to represent a client suing herself? Lawyers are all forbidden to bring adverse actions against their own clients; it is the conflict of all conflicts, a pure breach of loyalty. Does this mean, then, that even when a statute requires a plaintiff to sue herself as a defendant, it can’t be done without breaching the ethics rules?

The case is Bagley v, Bagley, and both Bagleys are the same Bagley.

State Farm Insurance Company handled Barbara Bagley’s car insurance. She was driving when her car flipped and killed her common law husband.  To compel State Farm to indemnify her, Bagley, in her dual capacities as sole heir and personal representative of the estate of her husband, was required to bring this suit against herself as the negligent driver. Bagley as plaintiff and as her husband’s heir brought a cause of action pursuant to Utah Code section 78B-3-106, Utah‘s wrongful death statute, alleging that the defendant—her— negligently caused her, that is, the plaintiff’s husband’s death, thereby depriving his sole heir –the plaintiff, but also the defendant—of his “love, companionship, society, comfort, care, protection, financial support, pleasure, and affection.”  She also brought a second cause of action pursuant to Utah Code section 78B-3-107, Utah‘s survival action statute, alleging that the defendant—her again— negligently caused the deceased to experience pain and suffering prior to his death, entitling Bagley’s late husband’s estate to other damages. Continue reading

Oooooh, Sneaky, Uber!

fine-print

Fine print alert!

Uber, the controversial  ride-sharing giant, quietly changed its terms of service to foist mandatory arbitration on its users. This is a common tactic of large corporations lately, taking away consumers’ rights to sue when they are harmed due to negligence. Arbitration is often full of hidden biases, with a natural  financial motivation for less-than-ethical arbitrators to tilt in the direction of the companies that pay them.

The change means that a passenger injured in an Uber vehicle due to its driver’s negligence would be required to arbitrate any claims for personal injuries before the American Arbitration Association, because the passenger had technically agreed to the terms and conditions of the Uber contract every passenger must accept. How would  long-time customers know about the change from the original Uber conditions? They wouldn’t, unless they regularly cruised the company’s website.

On July 29, 2016, Judge Rakoff from the Southern District of New York ruled that the notice of Uber arbitration terms was not sufficient to let riders know that  they were waiving the right to sue, and thus the mandatory arbitration provision was unenforceable. Uber’s response was to send an email to its users, announcing that it was updating its terms effective November 21, 2016.  Uber also instructed its users to read the new Terms and stated it had “revised our arbitration agreement.”  Now they have you, because Uber users can no longer claim that they didn’t know about the new terms. When you use the service, you are stuck. You have waived the right to sue.

There is a large “but,” however.

An Uber user can still reject the November 21, 2016 Terms by providing Uber with written notice by mail, by hand delivery or by email within 30 days of November 21, 2016. Like many companies, Uber’s “notice” consists of a hard-to-find section on its website. The mechanics of rejecting the new terms information are virtually buried on Uber’s legal page, and read, Continue reading

From The “Why People Hate Lawyers” File: The Lawyer Who Bit Off More Than He Could Chew

"Bit--off--too-much--chicken--no---plastic---knife---ARRRGH!"

“Bit–off–too–much–chicken–no—plastic—knife—ARRRGH!

Paul Newton Jr., a lawyer in Gulfport, Mississippi, sued Popeye’s after he required emergency surgery to remove a chunk of fried chicken from his throat last November. He claims the fast-food restaurant was negligent and caused his near fatal accident because it didn’t include a plastic knife along with the “spork” in his drive-through order.

Newton says he consumed  the meal (two chicken breasts, an order of red beans and rice, a biscuit and a soft drink…YUM!) in his office, and had to “hold a chicken breast in his hands and to tear off pieces thereof with his teeth.”In the  lawsuit , the lawyer maintains Popeyes had a duty to provide the appropriate utensils so customers will be able “to cut their purchased food orders into appropriate portions.”

Newton abandoned his chicken suit–well, not his chicken suit, but his chicken lawsuit— the Huffington Post reported, after receiving “extreme comments directed to me and my family.”

Like “Learn to eat!”, maybe? Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

There is an Ethics Alarms post “going viral” right now, at least as viral as any post on an ethics blog is likely to go. For two weeks now, my post at the end of July about how the “urban legends” site Snopes had descended into  dishonest, spinning, fact-distorting partisan/ left “factchecking” hackery has lapped all others here, and been shared to record levels on Facebook (nearing 11,000 shares) and Reddit.

This is nice, of course. It has brought a few (though not many) new commenters to the blog, and presumably more readers who stayed to peruse other topics. It has made August 2016, usually a fairly dead month, the most heavily trafficked month in Ethics Alarms annals. The post alerted some people to why Snopes is untrustworthy, though not, apparently, the Washington Post, which cited it as authority just a few days ago. It also prompted, on Reddit and Facebook, several thousand smug “this is not news, I’ve known this for years” comments. Where were your blog post, jerks?

The post’s wide circulation through the web also made me aware that a conspiracy theory holding that Democrats and the Hillary Corrupted maintain a team of attack commenters who go to blogs and attempt to muddy the waters when the truth about Clinton threatens to break through the denial dam might be accurate. I have received four or five almost identical comments on that post attempting to deny my dissection of Snopes’ pathetic attempt to prove that Hillary didn’t defend a child rapist, didn’t discredit his young victim in the process, didn’t know he was guilty when she did it, and didn’t laugh about the case in a recorded interview. None of the four commenters  read all of my post, which echoed a previous one in pointing out, as I always do, that a lawyer defending a criminal is not unethical, that the attacks on Hillary for doing so were ignorant and unfair, and that Hillary Clinton has nothing to apologize for in this case. Never mind: all four of these commenters ( and some others which never made it onto the blog) shifted into similar boilerplate language claiming I was attacking her too,  and preceded to repeat Snopes’ dishonest “factchecking” as if the documentation of its falsity I presented in the post didn’t exist.

Nonetheless, the Snopes revelation was not the Ethics Alarms post I would have chosen to “go viral.” There have been many essay in the last six year that I was, and am, especially proud of and believe were original, perceptive and important, and that have been barely read by anyone, never linked to or shared, and that have had all the impact of a shell thrown into the surf. How I wish my warning to the Republican Party , for example, urging it not to permit Donald Trump to participate in the primaries, had received similar attention. Not a single editorial board or pundit saw the peril looming, or at least  they didn’t write or talk about it if they did, because having The Donald spouting his inanities would be good copy and “fun.”

One such post dates back to the first full year of Ethics Alarms: The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit, from August 2010. In six years, it has amassed about the same number of views that the Snopes piece amassed in half a month. Yet the topic, how mouthwash manufacturers profit significantly by hiding the widespread use of their product by alcoholics who use mouthwash to conceal their destructive disease from family members and co-workers, is barely mentioned  on the web—a few places, and almost all of them since the post. Still, Congress hasn’t held hearings, regulatory agencies haven’t noticed, and the products still carry warnings that fool non-alcoholics into believing that the stuff is poison, so nobody drinks it. Lives could be saved, marriages rescued, and endangered businesses might survive, if what I wrote was generally known

I’ve done the original research and put the problem out there. At least I’ve tried, and I will continue to write about the problem, which I have learned about first hand.

My efforts  haven’t been completely futile. I have received some gratifying comments and off-site e-mails from family members who read the article, discovered that a loved one was secret drinker, and got them help. I have also received a few responses that confirmed my work, though none quite like this one from new reader Dave, an alcoholic himself.

Here is his remarkable and  cryptic  Comment of the Day on the post, The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit. Is it intentional irony? Is it sarcasm? Is it support, in the form of criticism? You decide:

Halfway through your article I decided it would be a good idea to go to shoppers and grab myself a bottle. I’d been so triggered today, only being a week sober prior. It’s great, you know, the mouthwash deception as you call it. I spend roughly $3.50 on a bottle of Life brand yellow mouthwash and it gets me radically twisted, with zero hangover. So not only does it make it easier for me to be a functioning alcoholic based on its inexpensiveness and zero hangover qualities, it is also amazingly convenient in that within 10 minutes I have three different 24 hour grocery stores I can go to in order to get a bottle.

Alcoholism is a shitty disease, believe me, I have lost much at the expense of it.

Continue reading

The Ethics Lessons In The Tragic Death Of Harambe The Gorilla

The primary lesson is this: Sometimes bad things happen and nobody deserves to be punished.

The tragedy of Harambe the Gorilla is exactly this kind of incident.

In case you weren’t following zoo news over the long weekend, what happened was this. On Saturday, a mother visiting the Cincinnati zoo with several children in tow took her eyes off of a toddler long enough for him to breach the three foot barricade at the Gorilla World exhibit and fall into its moat. Harambe, a 17-year old Lowland gorilla male, took hold of the child, and zookeepers shot the animal dead.

Then  animal rights zealots held a vigil outside the zoo to mourn the gorilla.  Petitions were placed on line blaming the child’s mother for the gorilla’s death. Other critics said that the zoo-keepers should have tranquilized the beast, a member of an endangered species. The zoo called a news conference to defend its actions.

Lessons:

1. Animal rights activists are shameless, and will exploit any opportunity to advance their agenda, which in its craziest form demands that animals be accorded the same civil rights as humans. Their argument rests equally on sentiment and science, and takes an absolute position in a very complex ethics conflict. This incident is a freak, and cannot fairly be used to reach any conclusions about zoos and keeping wild animals captive.

2. Yes, the mother made a mistake, by definition. This is res ipsa loquitur: “the thing speaks for itself.” If a child under adult supervision gets into a gorilla enclosure, then the adult has not been competent, careful and diligent in his or her oversight.  The truth is, however, that every parent alive has several, probably many, such moments of distraction that could result in disaster, absent moral luck. This wasn’t gross negligence; it was routine, human negligence, for nobody is perfect all the time. You want gross negligence involving animals? How about this, one of the first ethics essays I ever wrote, about the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin holding his infant son in one arm while feeding and taunting a 12-foot crocodile? You want gross negligence amounting to child endangerment? Look no further than the 6-month-old waterskiier’s parents. Taking one’s eyes off of a child  for a minute or two, however, if not unavoidable, is certainly minor negligence that is endemic to parenthood. Zoos, moreover, are not supposed to be dangerous. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick

“Whether or not the alleged institutional abuses are ultimately proven, the reality is this: A severely ill young man wasted away, smeared in his own feces, under the watchful eyes of multiple health care workers, corrections staff, and other inmates. His death will force no accountability and will bring about no change. The illness from which Jamycheal Mitchell suffered could have been better managed through medication, proper treatment, and simple respect. The illness that allows the rest of us to jail great masses of dangerously sick people and mistreat them until they die? It is increasingly seeming to be untreatable and incurable.”

—-Slate’s legal pundit Dahlia Lithwick, writing about the case of 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell, who was found dead in his cell at Hampton Roads (Virginia) Regional Jail in Virginia.

Jamycheal Mitchell: Almost nobody thinks his life mattered.

Jamycheal Mitchell: Almost nobody thinks his life mattered.

There is a $60 million lawsuit being filed by Jamycheal Mitchell’s family over his death as a result of an astounding combination of incompetence and negligence. Mitchell suffered from schizophrenia and a bipolar disorder, and was arrested four months prior to his death for stealing a can of Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar, and a Zebra Cake from a 7-Eleven.  He was allowed to waive counsel despite his mental and emotional impairments, and bail was set at $3,000  for stealing less than five dollars worth of junk food. A judge twice ordered him moved to a state mental health hospital, but no beds were available, so he was allowed to languish, and starve to death, in jail.

The videotape of his last days in prison were also erased forever, because, officials say, they didn’t show anything irregular. I was asked if this qualified as spoliation, the intentional and illegal destruction of evidence when a court proceeding is looming or and investigation is underway. No, because spoliation can only take place when a legal proceeding is inevitable or in process, and also because government institutions are remarkably unlikely to ever be held to account for the practice. This was not technically spoliation, because there was no legal proceeding yet, though one could have been predicted by an idiot. Similarly, Hillary Clinton destroying 0ver 30,000 supposedly “purely personal” emails  before they could be demanded by a Senate Committee (and hearings are not legal proceeding) were not technically spoliation. Ethically, it is a distinction without a difference.

Continue reading