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Unintended consequences

Why you need a hobby

As security professionals, we deal with a tremendous amount of stress. Like my boss circa 2015 told me about a week into our tenure together, we tend to be perfectionists, and frequently we’re asked to deal with the most cavalier people in our organization. It’s a toxic combination.

One of the first things that boss asked me after we met was what I think about at home. In all honesty, I can’t help but think about work sometimes. But I have a lot of other things I think about at home too. Important things like my family of course, but other important things too, like trains and baseball and baseball cards. And for the last few years I’ve been in the position of mentoring younger members of my team. I always tell them to get a hobby if they don’t have one.

Read More »Why you need a hobby

Let’s talk about net neutrality

The battles are raging over net neutrality again. Conservatives generally are against it; liberals are generally for it. I think the battle is more over misunderstanding than anything else, so I want to try to clear up that misunderstanding.

Net neutrality is in no way, shape, or form related to the political slant of the data in transit. It is not the Internet equivalent of The Fairness Doctrine, the old law that forced television and radio programmers to alternate left- and right-wing content, or equal time, which forces programmers to give equal time allotments to political candidates from both major parties. It’s completely unrelated to both of those things.

What net neutrality is really about is double-billing.Read More »Let’s talk about net neutrality

If you don’t know what SOPA and PIPA are

If you don’t know what SOPA and PIPA are, I urge you to visit this site. SOPA and PIPA, among other things, completely undermine the idea of due process, without which we might as well still be constituents of King George III.

If we want a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, SOPA and PIPA have to be stopped. If we want a government of the corporations, for the corporations, by the corporations, SOPA and PIPA are a tremendous jump in that direction.

Write your congressmen. You can do it from the site linked above. If you have certifications, sign off with them. Any little extra bit of weight you can throw behind your argument helps.

Copyrights can be useful things, but SOPA and PIPA have too many unintended consequences. It’s like treating an illness with hemlock. It’ll cure the illness, but there’s this one side effect that’s a doozy.

Dateline\’s getting sued

I see that Dateline’s being sued because someone who found himself on the “To Catch a Predator” segment and killed himself. His sister is suing for $105 million.

Good.I don’t normally like lawsuits, but Dateline is the most despicable excuse for journalism in the entire world, and yes, I know that takes some doing. Remember, this is the same television show that decided that GM pickup trucks didn’t explode spectacularly enough in collisions and rigged them with explosives, then presented this dramatization as fact.

What Dateline does in its To Catch a Predator segment isn’t journalism at all. It’s entrapment, pure and simple. And capturing it on film turns it into something more closely resembling so-called “reality TV” than anything else–certainly more than journalism.

The job of a journalist is to report events. What this segment of the show does isn’t to report the events–it creates them. What’s worse is that it puts the people caught on camera on trial in the court of public opinion. Many of the people who end up on the show end up having their cases dismissed in court for lack of evidence.

If the police want to engage in this sort of activity, that’s one thing. When a sensationalistic television show does it, unintended consequences happen.

I have no sympathy for pediphiles. But engaging in entrapment to put them on television as a form of entertainment isn’t the proper or ethical way to deal with them. Plus, it certainly isn’t journalism, and it gives a bad name to those who do try to practice journalism in an ethical and principled manner.

Unfortunately, a $105 million lawsuit isn’t going to do much to change Dateline’s practices. The show stays on the air because it gets reasonably good ratings and is dirt cheap to produce. That’s why they put it on in every time slot where another show fails. Even with the occasional nine-figure lawsuit thrown in, it’s far cheaper to produce than any sitcom.

If you don’t like the direction this country or society is headed, thank shows like this. Sensationalism and celebrity gossip is what passes for news these days, so the things that really matter don’t even get mentioned.

If you want to get your news from television, watch Jim Lehrer on PBS. Liberals think it’s too conservative; conservatives think it’s too liberal. That’s usually an indication that it’s doing something right. Flawed though it may be, at least it is journalism, unlike most of what ends up on television news anymore.

I remember someone asking one of my journalism instructors (Bob Sullivan, now an MSNBC columnist) for an example of balanced journalism. Surprisingly, he didn’t hesitate. “MacNeil/Lehrer,” he said. Then he laughed. “And no one watches.”


I can find better journalism than Dateline without switching from NBC, however. It happens every Saturday night. Yes, I’m talking about Weekend Update. And it was better even when Norm McDonald was hosting.