Incompetence Saturday Begins: That Annoying “Ten Concerts, One’s A Lie” Facebook Game

It’s a relief to know that I occasionally pay attention to what I teach.

When so many of my Facebook friends started rushing like lemmings to play the viral “Name ten concerts you attended, with one phony one” game yesterday, I hesitated, and not just because listing Al Jolson, Enrico Caruso and  Jenny Lind would reveal my true age. I had just been explaining to a group of Pennsylvania lawyers that they probably weren’t as competent in using technology and social media as they thought they were, and that if there was one thing of value to extract from the last Presidential campaign, it was a searing lesson in the consequences of being naive, lazy and gullible while using the internet. (Yes, I’m looking at you, John Podesta!)

By purest coincidence, yesterday also marked my four hour efforts, involving four phone calls, three phones, two websites, three passwords and a consultant (my son), to switch my e-mail address from Verizon to AOL, since AOL has purchased Verizon’s e-mail business. As I neared the finish line of this ordeal, I encountered AOL’s list of “Secret Security Questions.” One of them was “What was the first concert you attended?

Hmmmm… 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

Comment of the Day: “The Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service Condemns Former Agent Gary Byrne And His Clinton Exposé ‘Crisis in Character’…GOOD.”

Bill and Monica

Like one of those characters who leaves the band of heroes mid-movie only to make a sudden return to save the day at the climax (OK, I’m thinking about Brad Dexter in “The Magnificent Seven,” and come to think of it, he gets shot), veteran Ethics Alarms pugilist Steve-O-in-NJ vanished for more than a month but came galloping back with an interesting, wide ranging, politically provocative and bitter post about the ex-Secret Service agent’s tell-all book,  its relevance to the Presidential race, my contention that an agent might have an obligation to assist a POTUS with less than savory—but legal!—activities, and when he really gets rolling, much, much more.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, The Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service Condemns Former Agent Gary Byrne And His Clinton Exposé “Crisis in Character”…GOOD.

I think the formal pledge of confidentiality was only instituted in 2000. So legally he may be ok, depending on when he left and whether the pledge was retroactive. Ethically what he is doing is pretty slimy. Unfortunately, in this campaign all bets are off, and he can probably hide behind rhetoric that casts him as a private, concerned citizen exercising his First Amendment rights to make sure that this country does not go down a VERY dangerous path with a female near-Caligula at the helm (alluding to Caligula’s random and capricious abuse of power, not his perversion) .

I have to say, the statement that they are obligated to help the President cheat on the First Lady, a la wheeling FDR to Lucy Mercer, does NOT sit well with me. The Secret Service are law enforcement officers before they are anything else, and they are officers who enforce laws against fraud and deception, i.e. counterfeiting, certain kinds of check fraud, and I think at some point they may also have worked on credit card fraud. As such they need to be doing things better and cleaner than Joe Average. They are not the President’s personal valets, chauffeurs, or manservants, and their role is not to enable the President to commit acts for personal gain or gratification that we ordinary citizens wouldn’t tolerate from ourselves or others. That’s not only setting one set of ethics for the First Family and another for the rank and file of citizens, it’s saying that officers otherwise sworn to uphold the law against fraud have to aid in those dubious ethics.

Maybe this sounds a little bit old-style Boy Scout-ish, but I couldn’t blame a Secret Service agent who told a President who was at least as concerned with chasing ass as he was with running the country that “my job is to protect you, sir, but you will not drag me into your slimy personal affairs and then tell me to keep it quiet.”

Continue reading

The Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service Condemns Former Agent Gary Byrne And His Clinton Exposé “Crisis in Character”…GOOD.

Secret Service agents await the arrival of U.S. Presidential candidate Obama in Durham

The Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service has reportedly condemned member Gary Byrne and his unethical tell-all “Crisis in Character.” A formal statement will be released later today, in which the group strongly denounces the book, which it says will make protecting Presidents more difficult by eroding the trust between agents and the people they protect.

I hope the statement goes farther than that. “It will make security more difficult” is a practical, non-ethical consideration. What about ethics? Byrne, who was a Secret Service agent at the Clinton White House, has written what he claims is an account of disturbing behavior by the Clintons, and especially Hillary, behind closed doors. How dare he? The duty of confidentiality is as crucial and near absolute for Secret Service agents as it is for doctors, lawyers or priests. Unless they witness a serious crime, agents may not reveal what they see or hear. It is a massive breach of trust, and cannot be justified or rationalized by saying “But we have to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming President!” That is not the concern of the Secret Service. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics (and Legal) Dunces: Hillary Clinton And Everyone Else Who Is Suggesting That The Government Should Be Able To Keep Someone From Buying A Gun By Placing Them On A “No-Fly List””

EYES of fear

From Comment of the Day auteur Chris Marschner comes more perspective on the post Orlando debate, and some of the irresponsible arguments being made. His focus: the distortion caused by fear,  and he adds a further rebuttal to the suddenly current “The Second Amendment only applies to muskets” nonsense, for which he has more patience that I. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics (and Legal) Dunces: Hillary Clinton And Everyone Else Who Is Suggesting That The Government Should Be Able To Keep Someone From Buying A Gun By Placing Them On A “No-Fly List”

What I have not seen yet is an actual deconstruction of the events that took place well before the self-proclaimed radical set his sights on the Pulse night club. Furthermore, once again one side immediately attributes the root cause of mass shootings to an inanimate object that has the capability to inflict substantial casualties or, as the New York Times editorial(s) puts it, Republican rhetoric that fuels hate toward the LGBT community and other minorities and that the pro-gun lobby is complicit in facilitating these horrific events. It seems to me that such rhetoric fuels the intransigence by the pro gun side to stick to their guns, so to speak.

Whether it’s the NRA and the millions people that make up its membership, or non-gun owners who would not know an automatic weapon from a semi- automatic weapon used by the military both sides are arguing from a state of fear.

At the heart of the problem is how do we combat that fear without sacrificing the very freedoms we want to protect. We aid, abet and give comfort to our enemies when we fight internally over these issues. By dividing us they distract us from their activities; so they win a tactical advantage. By causing us to sacrifice our fundamental freedoms they win some battles. When they force our retreat into isolation they win the war.

Irrespective of what we call it, radical Islamists or simply extremists we do know the name of the organizations that seek to inflict as much death and destruction to the civilians living in western Europe, Israel and the United States. Each has a name and a state of war can be declared on each one. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Day, Or “Now THIS Is Spinning!”: Hillary Clinton Spokesperson Brian Fallon

Clinton spin

“While political opponents of Hillary Clinton are sure to misrepresent this report for their own partisan purposes, in reality, the Inspector General documents just how consistent her email practices were with those of other Secretaries and senior officials at the State Department who also used personal email. The report shows that problems with the State Department’s electronic record keeping systems were longstanding and that there was no precedent of someone in her position having a State Department email account until after the arrival of her successor. Contrary to the false theories advanced for some time now, the report notes that her use of personal email was known to officials within the Department during her tenure, and that there is no evidence of any successful breach of the Secretary’s server. We agree that steps ought to be taken to ensure the government can better maintain official records, and if she were still at the State Department, Secretary Clinton would embrace and implement any recommendations, including those in this report, to help do that. But as this report makes clear, Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email was not unique, and she took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her records.”

—-Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon, spinning the IG report with revelations which prompted that right-wing rag the Washington Post this morning to call his boss’s conduct, in an editorial, “inexcusable, willful disregard for the rules.”

Wow.

Whatever Hillary Clinton’s campaign is paying Brian Fallon to lie for her, it’s not nearly enough.

Imagine: the State Department IG issues a devastating condemnation of Clinton’s conduct, one that proves (as stated here since March, 2015, because it was obvious that early) Clinton has been lying about her conduct, her motives and the consequences of her actions regarding her personal e-mail server installed precisely to avoid the legal reach of the Freedom of Information Act at the risk of compromising national security, and the Clinton camp response is  to say, “See? She was telling the truth all along!”

This response is..

Cynical.

Audacious.

Insulting.

Also designed for use by the completely corrupt, like Nancy Pelosi,  typical of Clinton responses to all scandals, and ridiculously easy to expose.

And before I start exposing, let me address the comments of the liberal end of Woodward and Bernstein (that would be Carl), who while agreeing on CNN this morning that the IG’s report is “devastating” in its near complete demonstration of how much Clinton has misrepresented the facts and her conduct to the news media and the American people, summed it all up be saying that Hillary has had “an uncomfortable relationship with the truth.”

To evoke the late Fred Rogers: Can you say “habitual liar”? Sure you can! A woman who has had “an uncomfortable relationship with the truth,” Carl, is a liar. Don’t sugar-coat it and obfuscate. That’s what the Clintons do. You sound like a Clinton! She’s lying. She lied about the server. She lies all the time. You’re a journalist. Just say it, loud and clear. That’s your damn job.

But I digress.

Let’s just go over how poor Brian Fallon’s statement of desperate mega-spin is dishonest, misleading, and, to be blunt, a pack of lies: Continue reading

What A Surprise: The Inspector General Reports That What We Knew Clinton had Done With Her E-Mails A Year Ago In Fact Was What She Had Done, That She Has Been Lying And Spinning Ever Since, And That Her Supporters Have Either Been Dupes Or Accomplices! OK, I Guess That’s Not Much Of A Surprise…

Yawning2I’m not sure what to write about this, except that it has to be reported because the Clinton e-mail scandal has been so extensively discussed here since early in 2015. If it’s surprising to anyone, I pity them. If they try to keep denying it, I have contempt for them. If they don’t understand why this issue matters (Bernie…!), I pity them and have contempt for them.

Today the State Department’s inspector general’s report on the Clinton’s e-mail practices was released to the media.  The report makes it clear that Clinton intentionally set up the private server to avoid scrutiny of her personal e-mails, and the various Stygian activities revealed there. In order to do that, she willfully and knowingly violated State Department policies, and placed national security at potential risk.

The report concluded that Clinton failed to seek legal approval for her use of a private email server and that department staff would not have allowed it had she requested approval, because of the “security risks in doing so.”  Clinton’s use of private email for public business was “not an appropriate method” of preserving documents, the inspector general concluded, and her practices failed to comply with department policies meant to ensure that federal record laws are followed. Clinton should have printed and saved her emails during her four years in office or surrendered her work-related correspondence immediately upon stepping down in February 2013. She did not, choosing instead to provide those records in December 2014, nearly two years after leaving office.

So she was not following policy. What she did was not approved.  She did knowingly take risks with sensitive national security information. It wasn’t because she didn’t make “the best choice” that all of this occurred. Clinton was making the best choice for her…her career, her ambitions, her schemes.  The nation’s interests were secondary. If that. Continue reading

Your ATM Just Lied To Me. Not Cool, Wells Fargo

Liar, Liar...Ok, you have no pants, but your tongue...no, wait,,,

Liar, Liar…Ok, you have no pants, but your tongue…no, wait…

I really mean lied, as in “deliberately communicated a falsehood in order to deceive.” There’s no excuse for it.This morning I had the pleasure of depositing a rather large check in my account, exactly the way I have been depositing smaller checks on a regular basis at the same ATM at the same branch office of the various iterations of what is now Wells Fargo. This was an institutional check, from another financial institution, so it was printed, boldly, and the amount was not scrawled, as with many personal checks I have occasion to deposit using the “no envelope” method we now have avaliable thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

Nonetheless, the machine this morning had the cheek to post a window and message I had never seen before, telling me that the machine “could not read the check amount” and asking me to enter it on the keypad, rather than just confirm the deposit.

What’s going on here?

Wells Fargo is lying, that’s what. The amount on the check, which I usually can barely make out from the small scanned image on the screen, was so dark and clear that I could read it easily from three feet away. If I could read it, the machine that made the image definitely could read it. No, this was a new security feature, like the time over Christmas that holds were placed on four of my credit cards while I was standing at a check-out register because my Christmas shopping bill was “unusual” according to some geniuses’ software programs. What that false message from the ATM really meant was, “Hold it there, a minute, buster. You don’t get checks this big; we think you’re a crook. So we’re going to rattle you with this pointless, annoying request, even though a crook is just as capable of entering the amount as a legitimate depositor.” Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Senator Rand Paul

Thanks, Snator, we needed that.

Thanks, Senator, we needed that.

Rand Paul has disqualified himself from being considered for the Presidency by rational voters in many ways. His suggestion to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he would have waited for market forces to end Jim Crow, and voted against portions of the Civil Rights Act was enough all by itself. Paul’s embrace of isolationism—he often sounds like Michael Moore on foreign policy—is as fanciful as it is dangerous.  He has no executive experience, and based on some of his statements (and positions), I’m convinced he’s just not very smart.

Not only that, but he is the most arrogant candidate in a field that may contain Chris Christie, and that’s incredible.

Nonetheless, his filibuster-like Senate speech against National Security Agency counter-terrorism surveillance, forcing key portions of the Patriot Act to expire, was a brave, principled, and important act. In the end it was also a futile act, and the Senate quickly passed provisions that Paul opposed. The Daily Beast headlined the story, “It’s NSA 1, Rand Paul 0.”

It was still a public service. Yes, Paul alienated most of his party, and he took a huge risk: a single terrorist attack here will automatically turn him into a national pariah, and coming the same week that we discovered conclusively that the TSA is a joke, the chances of such an event occurring seem likelier than ever. (Saying, however, as Paul did, that “people here in town …secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me” was inexcusably  stupid. Really? People want to see American citizens die to make Rand Paul look bad, when he makes himself look bad on a regular basis?) The point Paul made, however, and it needs to be made again, and again, and again, is that there is no reason to trust the NSA, and no reason to trust the current federal government either. The fact that on security matters we have no real choice is frightening and disheartening, but nevertheless, no American should be comfortable with his or her private communications, activities and other personal matters being tracked by the NSA, which is incompetent (See: Snowden, Edward) and which lies, or the Obama Administration, which doesn’t care if the NSA lies, and has repeatedly shown that it has no qualms about violating the Constitution until a Court stops it. Continue reading

TSA’s Incompetence: Combining David Brooks’ Scandal-Free Fantasy With United’s Anti-Soda Can Policy For Muslem Passengers

mashupmonday

Now we have this:

Washington (CNN)Airport screeners failed to detect explosives and weapons in nearly every test that an undercover Homeland Security team conducted at dozens of airports, according to an internal investigation.

The Transportation Security Administration found that “red teams” with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General were able to get banned items through the screening process in 67 out of 70 tests — 95% — it conducted across the nation.

In other words, since those deadly Islamic terrorists can easily smuggle explosives and weapons on board United flights (or any others), it’s really silly to rob them of the pleasure of sipping a Diet Coke from a freshly opened can as they wait to send everyone to Allah.

In more words, all of the hundreds of thousands of hours, pointless inconvenience and hassle, emptying of pockets, taking off of shoes and belts, moving laptops in and out of bags, showing IDs and boarding passes, as well as the occasional intrusive and unpleasant feel-up pat-downs by strangers wearing rubber gloves that have been inflicted on air passengers (like me) have been stupid, useless, and as effective at keeping airplanes safe as being checked by a blind marmoset with a divining rod.

Of course, David Brooks wouldn’t call the TSA’s gross failure an example of inexcusable incompetence, lack of oversight and breach of trust a scandal either, because it doesn’t involve sex (well, at least in most of the patdowns)  or criminal acts, and is the responsibility of Barack Obama, whose administration is amazingly scandal-free, so this can’t be a scandal by definition.

I beg to differ. The stunning incompetence and lack of competent management, accountability (watch: nobody will be fired for this) or oversight exemplified by this latest fiasco is an ongoing scandal of the worst kind, one of many, or, if you prefer, just the single, devastating, huge, two-term scandal that is the Barack Obama presidency, the most arrogant and incompetent administration in U.S. history.