Misbehaving?

What drives the behavior of corporations? Is it purely the pursuit of profit? If asked, many would confirm they are in business to make money, but they do have standards of behavior as shown by their mission statement or code of conduct.

Remember Google’s “Don’t be evil”? That justly famous piece of text was originally a motto, then part of their code of conduct. After the 2015 corporate restructuring, parent Alphabet Inc. declared “Do the right thing” to be its motto, also being part of its code of conduct.

A December 2020 article by the Register reports:

“On Thursday Google was hit for the third time in as many months in the United States with an antitrust lawsuit, once again focused on the internet giant’s alleged monopolization of the search advertising market.

The legal challenge was filed in a District of Columbia federal court by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser on behalf of a coalition of 38 state Attorneys General. The states claim Google has engaged in anticompetitive conduct to maintain its dominance of the search advertising market, denying netizens the benefits of competition and harming advertisers with lower quality results and higher prices.”

A July 2021 report from Bloomberg says:

“Alphabet Inc.’s Google was sued by three dozen states alleging that the company illegally abused its power over the sale and distribution of apps through the Google Play store on mobile devices.”

These pieces of litigation have a way to go yet, but if it were true that Google was illegally abusing its power, that surely would not be doing the right thing. How does that sit with their code of conduct?

Note that, according to the Register article:

“The EU began its own antitrust inquiry into Google’s search ad business in 2010 and eventually targeted three Google businesses – Shopping, AdSense, and Android. In the years that followed, those investigations led to over €8bn in fines.

You might argue that a company that’s been fined for antitrust activity might take care in its dealings. You might say that it’s business as usual today and, anyway, it’s all a matter of interpretation. But, even if you think there may be excuses for such behavior in that area, there are lots of corporations who have certainly not done the right thing in fields other than antitrust law. For example, take a look here.

In his excellent Locus piece Tech Monopolies and the Insufficient Necessity of Interoperability, Cory Doctorow says this:

“Corporate personhood is obviously a sham. In his dissent in Citizens United, Supreme Court Justice Stevens wrote that corporations have no claim to free speech rights because “corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires.” Companies may project a set of “corporate values,” but these values are a marketing strategy, not a set of deeply held convictions.”

As the author makes clear in his article, corporations rarely have your best interests at heart. Worth remembering.

Desert Fighting

Here’s more proof of my love for tactical combat wargames, especially those set in World War 2. On my table now is the first ATS (Advanced Tobruk System) game, first released around 2002. In scale and looks, it’s very close to ASL, but has enough differences to make it attractive as an alternative gaming experience.

By way of full disclosure, when this first came out I invested a lot of time in trying to improve the rules as that, in my view, was the weakest aspect. A summary of the position is that some of my ideas were taken onboard and some weren’t. I supported the system (translation: I bought other ATS modules) but didn’t play it much after the initial surge of activity.

Over the years I have tried to get back into ATS using various of their Basic Game products, but none worked. What’s changed? Some of the fans of the system have put in a ton of effort and started an independent support operation consisting of a blog with already a couple of outstanding articles, podcasts, and other excellent support material. So, I dusted off my copy of Tobruk and started to immerse myself in ATS again.

So far, I have finished playing two scenarios (solitaire) using the rules in the box.

First up was Clash of Armor which allowed me to get to grips with most of the armor rules. The Germans won rather easily and I need to go back and see how to improve the defense.

Grant tanks on the prowl

The setup calls for the British to start with six dummy counters and six Grant tanks for a total of twelve counters. So, I picked twelve likely locations and drew a counter from the supply each time a possible location had its first chance at a shot. Basic, but it worked.

Then I tried Goschen’s House to tackle the infantry rules. The Germans have a 75mm howitzer and it is a killer if it hits. It took the British too long to deal with the gun and so the Germans won again.

For sure I got rules wrong and could have played better, but these sessions clarified what parts of the rules I need to work on. Besides, it was fun.

The latest rules are on their way to me. (I have the electronic version but prefer to read the physical version. I’ll use the electronic version for reference.) Once the real version is here, I’m hoping to do some more rules learning and playing.

 

Reaping and Sowing

One of the common trends in the social media world we live in is the tendency among some to exaggerate a particular position or sometimes to simply outright lie. Occasionally, just occasionally, this doesn’t work as intended.

Maybe this illustrates the trend in action.

Journalist John Ware has prevailed in the first round of his proceedings for libel against two senior members of Jewish Voice for Labour.

He claims JVL defamed his reputation as a professional journalist over the BBC Panorama programme that investigated anti-Semitism within Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

The day after transmission JVL’s media officer Naomi Wimborne-Idrissii told the Jeremy Vine show’s 1.4 million listeners on BBC Radio 2 that Ware had “ a terrible record of Islamophobia, far right politics, he’s been disciplined at – BBC has had to apologise.”

At a hearing to decide the ordinary meaning of her words, Wimborne- Idrissi argued they were just “honest opinion.”

However, Mrs Justice Steyn has ruled that reasonable listeners would have understood they were assertions of fact that Ware had “engaged in Islamophobia and extreme, far right politics, as a consequence of which the BBC has had to apologise for his conduct.” Listeners would also have understood that Wimborne-Idrissi was saying there were “reasonable grounds to suspect” that Ware “has an extensive record of Islamophobia and of involvement in extreme, far right politics.”

Ware says he has never been disciplined for anything by the BBC, is not an Islamophobe and has never engaged in “far right politics.”

The case will now proceed to trial, and Wimborne-Idrissi will have to try to prove that what she said was true. Ware is adamant that it is not.

The Jewish Chronicle has the story here.

 

Third’s the charm

Earlier today, I had my third vaccination. As with the previous vaccinations, the process was efficient and hardly took any time at all. The only delay as such was the fifteen minutes after the jag that they ask you to spend at the clinic to see if you suffer serious side effects. I’ve been very fortunate in that I have had no problems with any of the jags; not even a sore arm.

Although I have been vaccinated, I’m trying to keep away from places where the risk of infection might be high. For example, I could go to shul – with a mask – and be exposed to all the kids running around who are likely to be unvaccinated and may be carrying the virus. Instead, if I want to go to shul, I’ll attend the outdoors minyan that’s less than 100 meters from our building. It might not be as comfortable, especially in the heat, but it’s surely less of a risk.

Meantime, I’ve been trying and failing to get my head round why anybody in their right mind would not want to be vaccinated. It simply doesn’t make sense. These people shout about their rights but ignore their responsibilities. I’m all in favor of the so-called Green Passport so that the unvaccinated will be excluded from certain locations. That’s presumably the limit as to what can be done to encourage doubters to take the plunge and get vaccinated.

Waiting

Don’t you just love the naivety and earnest effort of the young? They seem so convinced they are right. For example, people like these:

What offends me about these daydreamers is that they bang on about what they see as the problem, but do bugger-all about proposing solutions. They are happy – not to say ecstatic – to criticize Israel, but there endeth the effort.

It’s also interesting to see how casually they discard the safety of me and the other citizens of Israel. This is from the ‘Our Message’ part of their website:

“Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza is a system of violence and discrimination that infringes Palestinians’ freedom, dignity and human rights. For whole generations of Palestinians, occupation has meant a life of petty humiliations, gross injustices and all-pervading fear. For Israelis, it has meant enforcing an oppression which requires brutality, dehumanisation and a disregard for democratic ideals. The occupation is not just immoral and illegal, but is an affront to fundamental Jewish values of equality and human dignity, despite being conducted under the guise of Jewish safety. No Palestinian or Israeli deserves the status quo, yet it will continue and worsen until Israel’s military rule over Palestinians is brought to an end.”

The guise of Jewish safety? I guess I must have imagined all those terrorist attacks. No, you couldn’t make it up: a fragment of text is their fig-leaf cover for assaults on the Jewish State.

As part of their online activities, they attack Israel in all sorts of ways. For example, you may not be surprised to hear that they don’t like the IHRA definition of antisemitism. And so, here comes a tweet from their lofty perch.

According to them, the IHRA definition has been used to silence legitimate criticism of Israel.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never seen anyone criticizing Israel stop just because they have been accused – often justly – of antisemitism. I’ve never heard of anyone being silenced because they were accused of antisemitism. But maybe my experience is limited. So, I thought I’d ask the experts.

So far, no response.

I’m waiting.

I’ll do a follow up if they deign to reply. Don’t hold your breath.

 

Another Inconvenient Fact

Assuming this post by the Elder of Ziyon is accurate, it appears that the people occupying and claiming ownership of the currently disputed property in Sheikh Jarrah do not have the proverbial leg to stand on.

In summary:

  • In 1956, Jordan and UNRWA allowed Palestinian refugee families to live in newly constructed property
  • In exchange, the families gave up their refugee ration cards, but not their status as refugees according to UNWRA
  • The lease provided that if they returned to their original homes they had to return the property to Jordan
  • The lease ran for three years and three months after which it could be renewed  on the same conditions for 30 more years, after which they could renew it for another 33 years
  • Payment under the lease was nominal
  • There is NOTHING that gives the families any ownership right

Note that if they renewed the lease, they are tenants until 2022. However, it’s unclear if they did or even could renew the lease. Also, as I understand it, they have refused to pay any rent – peppercorn or otherwise – which undermines the rights they might have had as sitting tenants. But, the key aspect of this factual information is that it comprehensively demolishes the occupiers’ claims of ownership. False, false, false.

Damn these facts sure are tricky. They just don’t seem to stack up the way Israel’s critics would like. (Which is why such people ignore facts and promote emotional propaganda.)  But it would have been nice if the usual suspects in the media made a token attempt to mention the facts when stirring up their anti-Israel supporters.

Sheikh Jarrah in 1900 – Source: Wikimedia Commons

To close, let me make it crystal clear that I am not jumping for joy that anybody might be turfed out of what they see as their home because of the current eviction action. But by the same token, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. As a general rule, people shouldn’t live rent free and certainly shouldn’t expect to live rent free.

Apple and the Register

I know it’s old news, but on browsing a Register article about the fruity company’s new plans to scan iPhones for child pornography, I came across this article: Inside our three-month effort to attend Apple’s iPhone 7 launch party.

It’s well worth reading in full, if only to see how companies can twist words to avoid telling the truth.

This is the enduring takeaway.

“The truth though is that large tech companies, especially in Silicon Valley, often use access to their events and their executives as a way to force positive coverage of themselves. If you write one bad thing about them, they threaten to stop talking to you. If you ignore the warnings, they blacklist you.

Unsurprisingly, The Register is not all that flexible when it comes to tech companies trying to intimidate us into writing nothing but positive press coverage. The question you should be asking yourself is: does that mean that everyone who is invited to Apple’s events can be relied upon to self-censor any negative comments? (Quick clue: the answer’s yes.)”

Bear that quote in mind the next time you see somebody reporting on an Apple press conference.

The Institute – Stephen King

While I wouldn’t go as far as the Sunday Express reviewer, I heartily recommend this standalone book as an example of a well written modern thriller that combines tension, flowing narrative, wistful observation, and a pack of sympathetically drawn characters.

The story is about a secret institute that hosts specially gifted children. Separately, there is former policeman Tim Jamieson, on a kind of journey to find peace, serenity, and himself.

I’ll keep this piece very short as I have no wish to spoil the plot. Instead, I’ll simply say that I thoroughly enjoyed this and experienced that unique regret that arises on reaching the last word in the last paragraph on the last page. How I wish there were more!

Trouble Ahead?

Out of the wrapper and on to the game table:

An unusual game about potential conflict in the South China Sea which includes a Political and a Military set of rules. In some scenarios, using cards, you play out the political aspect and the shooting can start at any time or not at all. Or, you can skip the politics and go straight to war.

The components are good, though the back side of some of the counters is slightly off. I found the rules a bit rough, but nothing that could not be bridged with some common sense. The system is easy and accessible and gives each player plenty to think about. The decisions are tricky, not the rules.

Some have criticized the lack of scenarios – there are only half a dozen or so – but if that bothered me, I’d be able to get some fan created ones from BGG. The current challenge, given how much fun this is, is how do I stop myself buying the next in the series?

July 1863

Ahead of the 158th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, I have been indulging in the heady mix of gaming and reading that brings history to life.

On the games table:

This game, part of the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series, includes three campaigns:

  • Here Come the Rebels – 1862 Antietam Campaign
  • Roads to Gettysburg – 1863 Gettysburg Campaign
  • Rebels in the White House – Early’s 1864 Raid on Washington

Each has several basic game scenarios and one or more advanced game scenarios. I am playing the basic game of the 1863 set which runs from June 30 to July 3, allowing me to see the situation before the great battle and how it developed.

To help put everything into context, I have been reading this alongside my game playing:

It’s well written and quick thorough, but – so far – avoiding putting too much detail before the reader so as to blur the overall picture.

Although I am fairly well read about the battle, there are always fresh perspectives; there’s always something new to learn. In addition, it’s fun and educational to compare a serious historical narrative with how the situation is expressed in the game.

For example, in the real campaign, each side only had the roughest idea about the location of the main enemy forces. The battle happened almost by accident, starting as a small encounter that mushroomed. Because the game doesn’t give you that lack of knowledge, it has to use other techniques to try and recreate the situation. For now, let’s say that they work, and although the game that arises is enjoyable, there’s a sliver of a sensation that an umpired version of the game with full fog of war is what we need. Till then, gaming and reading are pretty damn good as they are.