Category Archives: Comment of the Day

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: ’13 Reasons Why'”

More important than giant chickens, more susceptible to compassionate solutions  than North Korea, and more worthy of our consideration than Debbie Wasserman Schultz because anything is, the teen suicide problem generated excelled responses to a post about it here, and was, as topics are so often, quickly buried by other controversies and events.

Lets’ discuss this a bit longer, shall we? It’s worth it. A good way is to recall one of the best comments the post about the Netflix series dramatizing a fictional teen’s suicide and its effect on her friends.  Here is Rip’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: “13 Reasons Why”:

OK— this issue is one I have spent years delving into. I spent the better part of a decade doing volunteer work; developing interviewing techniques at Georgetown hospital with student actors to help train pediatric medical students on how to find youth that are engaging in or thinking about behaviors that put themselves at risk.Doctors Abrams and Hawkins have done amazing work on developing tools to reach at risk adolescents

I hope to return to  this at some point, but my volunteer work is currently on hold. Here is what I know.

75% of teen deaths, including suicides, in this country are avoidable if there is intervention in time. Suicide is the second leading cause of youth death, and LGBT youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to commit the act. Thank god for the Trevor Project and It Gets Better campaigns: they help. In the 90s when I tried to create suicide prevention programs through theater, I was told by administrators that we could not do this, as it might give the kids “ideas.”

Ugh. The statistics show they already have the ideas. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Health and Medicine, Love, Popular Culture

Comment Of The Day: “The Viral Google Diversity Memo”

The perspective Ethics Alarms readers often add to topics based on their personal experiences is a often great enhancement to the discussions here. This Comment of the Day by Alex is a perfect example, as he clarifies the context of the Google diversity memo through his own observations as an employee of another large tech company.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “The Viral Google Diversity Memo”:

Rather than rehash the memo or analyze it or say what is right or wrong with its reasoning, I’ll instead add my experience dealing with internal policies and “requests for comment” at a large tech (software) company – this is a direct competitor of Google, based in the Pacific NW and employing ~100,000 people (you can figure out who they are with that). My background is in Electrical Engineering with a strong focus on Computer Science, and I was hired by my previous employer just out of college after spending a summer internship with them. I worked there for 12 years, until the summer of 2016 (actually today is my one year anniversary at my new job). In my time there I can only describe diversity and HR policies around race and gender are schizophrenic, even if well-intentioned. These are my stories [insert Law and Order opening notes].

The official harassment/discrimination policy as stated in the employee handbook (which was updated every year) is incredibly vague, and this is intentional (although no one will come out and accept it publicly). We are in an at-will state, so you can be easily dismissed based on that one vague rule; and it has been used as a negotiation tactic on borderline performance dismissals to settle for a lower severance package. (“Do you really want us to state that you’re leaving for violations of the harassment policy? No? Ok, how about you settle for 2 weeks instead of 4?”) But I also have to state that the cases where I saw this section being arguably misused can be counted with the fingers of one hand. Also, I am certain that there are good intentions behind this policy, but as is the case with many well-intentioned rules, it is when the rubber meets the road that things get messy.

Every year we had to take Standards of Conduct training. Every year we had a new edition, and every year there was at least one case study dealing with gender or racial discrimination. Some years were better than others, but in general the training was terrible. If you had the cognitive abilities of a 7-year-old you could figure out what were the right responses without watching the videos or reading the policies. (The Saturday morning cartoons I watched in the 80s – G.I. Joe, He-Man, Transformers – had more complex moral dilemmas). I remember one year around the middle of my tenure when the videos and cases were actually interesting and engaging. A case that I still remember from that time is about an ambiguous situation between a male manager and a female engineer not in the same chain of command. There was a big internal debate about that one, and the next year we had the blandest possible training to avoid controversies.

The above two points are to set the stage: corporate policies are clear, you should toe the line, do not do anything that might be misconstrued, you can be dismissed for very small transgressions.

And then… well… tech companies are rebels, they thrive in chaos, and you’re expected to rock the boat. In many (may be even all) groups you can only grow so much by being a technical expert, you are expected to influence larger and larger teams as you get promoted to keep getting good performance reviews. You can be the only expert on a certain software component, but unless other people know about you and have been “influenced” by you, you are not considered good enough. This has the effect of incentivizing “visibility”. Other people and other teams should know you exist and be willing to state that you’ve had a positive impact for the company. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Leadership, Science & Technology, Workplace

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/2/17”

From Emily, a marvelous Comment of the Day so full of wisdom and good advice that it stands on its own:

I’m not from flyover country, but I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, red counties that include the poorest counties in the state (the lower shore has Baltimore City beat.) My family of three hovers around the federal poverty line.

However, my husband and I were both raised middle class. And while there are no major economic differences between us and our friends and neighbors, there are a lot of differences in the choices we make, which allow us to use the same amount of money to give our daughter opportunities that other parents in our economic class are unaware of or neglect.

This, more than money, is what affects the opportunities that my daughter has access to (as well as the ones my husband and I have access to.)

Despite the economic hardship, I’m a stay at home mom, which allows me to be dedicated full time to my daughter’s developmental delays. I could go to work and make *slightly* more money for us, after childcare expenses, but that would be a very different level of care for my daughter, and it turns out she needs it. The expert we’ve consulted is almost certain she’ll catch up, and has indicated me being home with her is an important part of that certainty.

I mentioned above that my daughter does have a tablet, a $30 one from Amazon. I found that tablet because I got a $20 Amazon giftcard for Christmas, and I was saving it for something special. I had to dig in the library’s website to find the link to borrow ebooks, but I figured there must be something like that.

We have internet, despite having no long distance for our phone (and no cellphone service where we live.) My husband and I manage to pick up extra money doing work online, despite neither of us having college degrees. This is part of what allows us to get by while still having plenty of time for our daughter.

These are just examples of things *we’ve* figured out. Everyone’s situation is different, especially among the poor. The thing that most people don’t seem to see is that down here social capital (the network of friends and family you have and what they’re willing to help you with,) knowing how to allocate resources carefully, and understanding how to navigate the various systems — both private and government — are more important to the kind of life you have than income, and those are highly individual things. Continue reading

117 Comments

Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Love, The Internet

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man'”

Responding to Pennagain’s comment, now a Comment of the Day, on his own Comment of the Day, Mark wrote in appreciation,

“Pennagain – I am a musician, mostly classical, and I tend to think in musical terms. I love it when I encounter something non-musical that is “symphonic” in its scope. Your response to my post is positively Mahlerian and, like a Gustav Mahler symphony, it must be listened to many times with each hearing offering up new ideas, connections to old ideas, or even bringing to life something completely new.”

This is, I think, Ethics Alarms’ all-time best ever comment by a commenter on another commenter’s comment on his Comment of the Day.

This July has an unfortunate record as the first month in the blog’s history to fall so far short of the previous year’s traffic in the same month. (Last year’s July did have the political conventions pumping up interest.) However, it also has seen the most Comments of the Day for a single month ever, with many more of equal distinction.  I’ll take quality over quantity every time.

Here’s is Pennagain’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man”

I’m not sure the disconnect began with the hand-held devices, Mark. That was Phase III. I think the first part began with the invention of teenagers (as a group) in the early 50s, still “post-war” time — and “post-war” was barely “post-Depression” time, so it had been at least two decades and a full generation gone since the the good times rolled. The early 50s coincided with the installation of “labor-saving” devices which took over a lot of household chores for youngsters, not just for the housewives the companies advertised to. All of a sudden, I could keep what I earned on my paper route (though I did have to replace my own bicycle once, used, of course, after I carelessly left it in a neighbor’s driveway), mowing lawns, delivering groceries, raking (and burning) leaves, shoveling snow, sitting for the rowdy 7-year-old twins down the block. All of a sudden, we had a refrigerator in place of the ice-box, so I didn’t need to help chop ice; meat came ground so I didn’t have to cut the chunks and push them slooowly through the grinder; . . . I keep forgetting some things and remembering others, like ruining the dessert one night we had guests because I got some rock salt in the motor of the ice cream maker . . . having a clothes washing machine which got rid of most of the water so I didn’t have to help hold up the soaking wet sheets to be pinned on the lines above my head. All of a sudden, I had both privacy (my own telephone), my own music, and “free” time, however much my parents tried to fill it with after school lessons-this and lessons-that. Money and time. Time and money. It was time for friends to bump together with other pairs and bond like atoms in a molecule, becoming a “gang,” having our own things and our own things to do. Choosing our own movies, having sleep-overs, cook-outs, camp-outs, or just standin’ on the corner (“Most Happy Fella’) watchin’ all the girls/boys go by …. choices my mother had as a flapper for a very short time but in her young adulthood, not a teenager, already making the transition from one family to another.

Until I was in my 20s and living outside the US, I didn’t realize that growing away from my family (not spending most of my days with them) had not been a natural shift, and not a gradual one either. Nor was it particularly safe – a lot of new habits were acquired (smoking was mandatory, drinking less available, less so; under-exercised/over-eating — unrecognized for another generation!), and a lot of lessons were never learned properly, like working through emotion-based arguments, and almost everything about sex). By the time I left for college I was, though without realizing it, estranged from my parents — my peers and some self-appointed guides knew better than they did! — and stupid enough socially to be a total jerk. There was a missing link. So what? I let go of the past and caught up with the future. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Love, Science & Technology, The Internet, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man”

My old friend Mark drops in to comment just a few times a year, but always delivers his trademark optimism, fairness, and perception. When he talks, I learned early on in our relationship, attention should be paid.. His was one of several excellent comments on the horrific episode in Cocoa Beach, where five teens stood by watching a handicapped man drown, and seemed to enjoy the sight mightily as they recorded his death on their cell phones. In response to another commenter’s query, “Are “kids” that are so disconnected that they’d do something of that magnitude rehabilitatable?”, Mark leaped k took the discussion to a related topic that I had found myself thinking about a lot while I was trapped in a lobby and two airports yesterday with nothing to do but wait and silently curse. What are electronic devices and social media obsession doing to our social skills and ability to relate to the world? At what point to we start sounding the ethics alarms…or the societal survival alarms? [ I’m going to include the last part of Mark’s earlier comment on the story, because it is a helpful introduction to the rest.]

Here is Mark’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man:

…The natural human reaction to observe has been enhanced by our ability to record, and it now seems to be the first response in almost every situation – the more harrowing the better. I’m sure there is some personal thrill involved in being able to post the result, garnering comments and ego-gratifying oohs and aahs.

The situation in Florida is only the most horrible of them, right up there with the guy who posted pictures of himself with the corpse of his step-father, whom he had just murdered. Like everything else, this is a tiny part of a much bigger picture of who we are becoming as a culture. The 21st century ability to remain safely behind a screen while still feeling a full participant in life (Internet commenting a prime example) frees us of the necessary empathy (or simply humanity) to come from behind that screen to behave in ways that might be heroic or even civil. I have little difficulty seeing that behavior manifesting in children raised viewing life through a cell phone.

The much larger question – at least for me – remains “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It’s a nagging question, versions of which swirl in and around almost all the major political issues of our day and, now, into our personal dealings with one another. It is always there, but we come up with more and novel ways to avoid actually answering or acting on it. Clearly, it never occurred to these boys. Cain didn’t want to answer the question. And, I suspect, neither do we.

***

 I carry two cell phones, absolute wonders of technology, which remain in my briefcase most of the time although I’ll take one of them with me to a picture-taking occasion. My friends grit their teeth at receiving responses to texts that are weeks old. My relationship with my cellphone(s) was cemented when I had the opportunity to whale watch off of Maui. I realized that I was so concerned about my precious iThing getting wet or falling into the water that I wasn’t watching the whales. I put the phone away and decided that watching the real world with both eyes was more interesting and that’s what I try to do. I hope sincerely that that attitude would ensure that I offer whatever aid I can in a dire situation rather than wondering what it will look like on Facebook later on. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Science & Technology, Social Media, The Internet

Comments Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Low IQ Parents”

This happens some times: I announce a Comment of the Day, I’m delayed in posting it, and because the comment was so provocative, it attracts equally excellent comments. This time I’m going to eschew the awkward “Comment of the Day: Comment of the Day on the Comment of the Day route, and link the comments up in sequence, beginning with the initial COTD by valentine0486.

Here are sequential Comments of the Day on the Ethics Quiz, “The Low IQ Parents.” I’ve learned a lot already. The whole comment thread is excellent and you should read it; I’m starting ats valentine0486’s COTD

I worked for two years with developmentally disabled individuals within the range of these two people. And, as much as it is sad and as much as I generally don’t like it when government makes these decisions, I am absolutely 100% certain that none of the individuals I worked for could properly raise children. As such, the state’s actions here are ethical, if the reasoning is somewhat dubious.

Let me share with you just some brief highlights of my time working with this segment of the population. I will abbreviate their names, so as to protect their identities. Please note that all of these individuals had higher IQs than Amy, and they may have all been tested as higher than Eric Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Research and Scholarship, Romance and Relationships, Science & Technology

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Headline Of The Month: ‘Vatican: The Body of Christ Is Not Gluten Free”‘

The original Ethics Alarms post, one of two this month implicitly critical of the Catholic Church, has spawned several remarkable and thoughtful discussions, as well as so many candidates for Comment of The Day that any choice among them is somewhat arbitrary. In the case of Ryan Harkins, I’m not even certain this is the best of his comments on the post, so many excellent ones did I have to choose from. Thus I urge readers to read the entire array, which, I regret to say, is impressive and educational even though it does not include my old friend Patrice, Catholic, theologian, and Church employee who has commented here frequently in the past.

I decided to pair two of Ryan’s comments, the first an overview providing context for my original post’s topic, the Church’s insistence that that the bread and wafers used in Communion include gluten. The second, a response to a series of queries from another commenter, delves into an eternal ethics debate topic, the nexus between God and ethics.

Here is Ryan Harkins’ Dual Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Headline Of The Month: “Vatican: The Body of Christ Is Not Gluten Free”

I.

Where to begin? The challenge of trying to explain some of the odder details of the Catholic faith is that many of those details don’t make sense without the context of the faith as a whole. So please forgive me if I seem to natter on about tangential matters.

So, let’s begin with a few definitions to make discussion a little easier. A Sacrament is a visible sign, established by Jesus himself, through which God conveys grace upon mankind. A Sacrament is composed of two parts, one spiritual and one material. The reason it possess both qualities is because Sacraments are designed for us, and a human person is a body/spirit composite. We are not purely material beings, nor are we ghosts in a shell. We are not a complete person without our bodies. Now, to have a sign that is purely spiritual would neglect the physical aspect of our existence. To have a sign that is purely physical would neglect the spiritual dimension of our existence.

The Eucharist is one of the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. Catholics really, truly believe Jesus was serious when he said repeatedly, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have eternal life.” When at the Last Supper, he blesses bread and wine and says, “Take this and eat. This is my body, given for you” and “This is the cup of my blood, which will be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”, Catholics believe that yes, Jesus truly held himself in his hands and gave himself to his apostles to consume. So the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus, the fullness of his body, blood, soul, and divinity. When a priest says Mass and confects the Eucharist, Catholics believe that the bread and wine on the altar are transsubstantiated into Jesus. The accidents of bread and wine remain (so yes, consuming Jesus is problematic for anyone who has issues with the accidents of bread and wine), but the substance is entirely Jesus. The smallest drop from the chalice and the tiniest crumb of the loaf contains the fullness of Jesus.

Okay, so a Sacrament has a spiritual and a physical dimension, and the Eucharist obviously uses bread and wine for the physical dimension. Why bread and wine? In just reference to food and drink, we understand the Eucharist as a meal, and historically the greatest communal activity is the sharing together of a meal. In earliest Christianity, the Eucharistic celebration was in the context of the agape feasts, which eventually St. Paul instructed to tone down because people would become drunk and riotous at these feasts. The point, though, is that eating together is sign of communion (which is in part why the Eucharist is also called Communion). Jesus had prayed that “they may all be one, Father, as I am in you and you are in me,” and the Eucharist is the Sacrament Jesus instituted to make that possible. By consuming Jesus himself, we bring him into ourselves and are in turn incorporated into him. (You are what you eat, right?) Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Religion and Philosophy