Friday, July 01, 2005

Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining

I just finished Judge Judy’s great book “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining” and I highly recommend it. Judge Judy is refreshing, and like me, she has no qualms about speaking her mind and telling it like it really is.

I’ve also recently read “On Bullshit”, a runaway bestseller that I’m still trying to figure out. I’m calling Harry Frankfurt at Princeton next week to help solve the mystery about exactly how his academic treatise of a word-origin became a national bestseller.

Don’t get me wrong – I love books on word origins, and I’m financing a book “The Words of the Day” which, IMHO, is far more entertaining than “On Bullshit”.

Phony College Degrees

This one is a pet peeve, especially with the Internet Diploma Mills. For more information of this huge morality problem, see Janet’s book “Conducting the Programmer Job Interview”, and her super-good upcoming book “Win your Computer Dream Job

It’s a crime to use a fake degree in some professions (nursing, medicine, law and engineering), and I wish that the government would start recognizing computer professionals as licensable professionals.

Cyberlibel and Web Scum

As you might expect from someone who detests fraud, I have zero tolerance with people who falsely charge honest people with fraud or professional incompetance. It’s usually kids on the Internet, and many of the people wrongly assume that because they have limited assets (being “judgment proof”) that they can get-away with Libel because there is no money to be had.

I describe several cases in my co-authored book “Web Stalkers” where I encourage people to stand-up for the truth and enforce the existing laws against "John Doe's" who invade people’s privacy and publish defamatory statements on the web.

In some jurisdictions libel is a criminal offense and these internet Moron’s falsely assume that the web is anonymous when they publish their false “facts”. In Australia, it appears that defamation and libel laws are so strict that they can become criminal offenses:

In South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory under common law any libel of sufficient seriousness can lead to criminal proceedings.

Cyberlibel has become a hot issue, and courts are awarding huge damages against those who knowingly publish false facts about other people under the false "cloak" of anonymity. Whenever I see someone who has been victimized, I e-mail them and remind them that they can get legal satisfaction, especially when the defamation is made by an employee of a large company, using company resources.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge advocate of free speech and the First Amendment. There is a huge difference between a statement of opinion (protected) and a statement of fact. Check out the Internet declaration of Independence:

The trend started when Carol Burnett and Liberace sued for libel and won big money for publishers who are loose with the truth.

Journalists on the Web

People don’t realize that they become journalists when they publish a blog or post a web page. In one notable NC case, someone ruined a woman’s life with this hateful lie:

Smith claimed to have overheard Batzel say she was related to Nazi Gestapo head Heinrich Himmler. He said he concluded that the European paintings he saw in her home must be stolen goods, and shared this in an e-mail he sent to the editor of the Museum Security Network

Thankfully, Ms. Batsel had the guts to stand-up for her rights, paving the way for thousands of new Cyberlibel cases

"I know what free speech is, and I support it, but this is about invasion of privacy and my civil liberty. Every time I meet someone now, I have to say,

'Hi, I'm not Himmler's granddaughter."

Mircosoft has also shown that it’s also great publicity when you go after the bad guys. Microsoft has spent a fortune tracking down hackers and Phishers, and the public loves it when the scum’s identities are publicly exposed. Frankly, I hope that Phishers like Jayson Harris feel humiliated after being exposed by Microsoft, and Microsoft has won some major Brownie-points from me for their agressive actions:

"In a successful use of the John Doe tactic, Microsoft filed a lawsuit in October 2003 in Seattle after a phishing scam targeted MSN customers.

Six months and two subpoenas later, the company tracked the scam back to 21-year-old Jayson Harris of Davenport, Iowa, according to Microsoft and documents from the company's civil case against Harris."

Now, I’ll probably never reach the level of candor of Judge Judy, or have the resources of Microsoft to chase-down evil-doers, but I applaud anyone with the Moxie to say “right-is-right” and take action against this rising tide of amoral filth.