Category Archives: Daily Life

My Verizon WiFi Ethics Dilemma

ProEthics (and our home, where it resides) is in Alexandria City, in Northern Virginia. We are dependent on the internet, but cannot get the high-speed variety, Fios, from Verizon, our provider. This has significant business and personal consequences: for one thing, it means that I can’t load video commentary on Ethics Alarms as I have wanted to do for years. For another, Verizon’s DSL service, at least mine, sucks. Lately it has been kicking out many times every day, sometimes after only being up for a few minutes.

We have called Verizon many, many times, in various states for fury,  to ask when  Fios will be available. The answers are scripted and vague, made to sound like the service will be available imminently. Nothing changes, however. Alexandria isn’t Hooterville: there are many businesses, and the residents would be a prime market for high-speed internet.

What’s going on here? Continue reading

44 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Daily Life, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

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

The Unibomber Had A Point. [UPDATED]

FX has a new limited series about the hunt for the Unabomber, Theodore John Kaczynski. I didn’t pay much attention to the story when it was going on; I just thought it was one more Harvard-grad-turns-serial-killer episode, and that was that. I certainly didn’t pay attention to his “manifesto.” The series, however, enlightened me.  As I understand it, Ted believed that technology was destroying society, making us all slaves to it, and taking the joy out of life. I have yet to see how blowing people up addressed this problem, but then he shouldn’t have to be right about everything. The evidence has been mounting since 1995, when he killed his final victim,that  the Unabomber  wasn’t quite as crazy as we thought.

I could bury you in links, but will not.  We are slaves, for example, to passwords. I teach lawyers that their devices containing client confidences should, to be properly protective of them under ethics standards, have passwords of at least 18 random letters, characters and numbers, with the password for every such device being different, and all of them changed every month. Or you can go the John Podesta route, use “password.” and get hacked, and eventually disciplined by your bar association, once they decide to get serious.

[CORRECTION: In the original post, I relayed a link to a site where you can check your password to see if it’s been compromised. I had been forwarded the link by another tech-interested lawyer. But as I was just alerted by a commenter (Than you, Brian!) It’s apotential trap and an unethical site, making you reveal your password to check it. I apologize for posting it. See how dangerous and tricky this stuff is? See? SEE?.I fell for the trap of depending on technology to protect us from technology! Ted warned us about that, too.]

Then there is this feature in The Atlantic. An excerpt: Continue reading

37 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Daily Life, Finance, Science & Technology, The Internet, U.S. Society

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

Multiple KABOOMS! From “The Good Illegal Immigrant” Files: The Good, Well, OK, Maybe Not So Good, Illegal Immigrant Driver

One head explosion after another splattered my office with gore as I read the New York Times sad, sad, <sniff> piece about poor, abused, illegal immigrants who drive without licenses. It began:

“Heading to church one evening in late March, a farmworker and her sister were stopped for speeding in the village of Geneseo, N.Y. They were driving with their five children in the back of the minivan. Two were not in car seats, as required. The police officer, trying to cite the driver for the infractions, discovered she had no driver’s license, so he called Border Patrol to review her Guatemalan passport. Both sisters were undocumented immigrants. They were detained and are facing deportation.”

Good.

The Times, however, currently engaged in a full-on “Let’s make illegal immigrants as sympathetic as possible” campaign—how can we  be so mean to people who were just trying to go to church?—makes it clear that such an event is just more cruelty and lack of compassion emanating from the Trump Presidency.

“Under a Trump administration that has taken an aggressive stance on illegal immigration, the moving car has become an easy target. A broken headlight, a seatbelt not worn, a child not in a car seat may be minor traffic violations, but for unauthorized immigrants, they can have life-altering consequences.”

KABOOM! #1. How shameless will the Times’s misrepresentations regarding this issue get? These people are not being deported for “minor traffic violations.” They are being deported because they ahve absolutely no business being in the country at all. The Yorkshire Ripper was caught because of a police stop for a minor traffic violation.  By the Times reasoning, this, and not  the 13 women he murdered, is why he was sentenced to life in prison.

These drivers are also not “undocumented.” Undocumented is what I was when I was stopped for speeding with an expired license. I was, however, still a citizen. “Undocumented” is a Times and illegal immigration lobby cover-word for what illegal immigrants really are: illegal immigrants.

The term deceitfully suggests that the “undocumented” individual was just missing some papers—t could happen to anybody! No, you are not just “missing papers” that you never had the right to have.

KABOOM! #2:

“As many as 12 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, offer driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants, up from three in 2010. New York, which has the third-largest immigrant population in the country, is not one of them.”

Three was unconscionable. Twelve is a scandal and a dangerous attack on sovereignty and the Rule of Law.

KABOOM! #3 and #4:

Supporters of efforts to allow those who are undocumented to get driver’s licenses say that public safety would improve because they would be required to pass road tests and obtain insurance. But critics said that licenses represented a privilege that unauthorized immigrants should not hold, because they should not be here in the first place.

The first sentence is a logical disconnect: Let’s make what these people do legal, because they’ll break the law if we don’t. Yes, and the fact that they’ll break the law if they can’t do something legally is why they are here illegally and why they cannot be trusted as citizens. To its credit, the Times at least quotes a Republican lawmaker who is not deceived, though the paper suggests that she has a comprehension problem:

Senator Kathleen A. Marchione, a Republican representing the Upper Hudson Valley…does not understand the argument for giving licenses to those who are undocumented.“Driving without a license should not give you a right to have a driver’s license when you are already breaking the law in two instances,” she said in an interview. “That’s like saying if a kid is drinking at 16 years old, we might as well let him.”

That is exactly what it is like. She “doesn’t understand” the argument because it doesn’t make sense and never has. The Times won’t accept this, as the second sentence in the quote above makes clear. This isn’t merely what “critics” say. It is a fact. There is no “other side” to facts, and the Times is misleading its readers to suggest that this is just a contrarian position.

KABBOOM #5 and #6 came after reading this quote:

Anne Doebler, a private immigration lawyer in Buffalo, said that undocumented immigrants want to follow traffic laws, and that civil law and immigration law should be kept distinct. “Why do we want to use our vehicle and traffic laws to enforce an immigration policy when it’s detrimental to public safety?” she asked. “I don’t want someone to hit me who doesn’t have insurance…I don’t care what their immigration status is.”

“Undocumented” as a cover-word for “illegal” no longer makes my head explode, it just makes me angry. But Doebler’s spin is outrageous. Oh, the illegal immigrants want to obey laws that make it easier for them to live here illegally, do they? Well, isn’t that wonderful! Why don’t they want to obey the immigration laws? Heck, why don’t we just stop enforcing all laws, since avoiding law enforcement often makes criminals and law breakers breach other rules, laws, and ethical obligations?

The Times cites statistics showing that hit and run accidents by illegal immigrants declines significantly when they are allowed to have licenses and insurance. Hey! I just thought of an even better way to reduce hit and run accidents by illegal residents!  Can you guess what that would be?

Would Doebler care what the immigration status of someone who, say, ran down her child was, if that individual had been allowed to stay in the country after a previous traffic infraction? Would she really think, “Illegal, legal, what’s the difference?” I think not. I think she would say, “the driver who killed my kid should not have been on the streets at all,” because that would be obvious and true.

22 Comments

Filed under Character, Citizenship, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

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

14 Comments

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

Comment Of The Day:”Comment Of The Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade’”’

This Comment of the Day is atypical, but I want to highlight it.

It’s doesn’t really matter what the original exchange was that prompted it, or who the other commenter was. What matters to me is that a respected, smart, articulate member of the colloquy here felt denigrated and mistreated, and that her experience as a commenter was diminished as a result. There may even have been a misunderstanding  involved; right now that is not my concern either.

I allow the discourse to get very intense here at times, and I will continue to. Lines are crossed—civility, insults, epithets, outbursts, personal attacks, mockery, blatant contempt–I cross them myself on occasion. Those who thrive here are remarkable, I have found, in taking rhetorical punches to the jaw and the gut and bouncing back without rancor or reduction in passion.

Nonetheless, the Golden Rule should never be too far out of mind on an ethics site. We can all make our points without being gratuitously nasty and mean. Stinging slapdowns can be fun–I enjoy them, though I save my worst for especially annoying visitors who I don’t care to have return—but they need to be kept to a minimum. Sincere, thoughtful, honest and perceptive commenters like Mrs. Q should never feel the way this post indicates that an exchange made her feel. Ethics Alarms is designed to be challenging and contentious, but not hostile. She hasn’t commented since this was filed; I hope that she has just been busy, because Mrs. Q  has been a unique and wonderful asset since she first dropped in a few months ago.

Let’s do better.

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment Of The Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade’”

The level of disrespect you have shown me, with the snark & unwillingness to do the research yourself, tells anyone reading that there is something inside you that is either terribly unhappy or unhealthy. I cannot in good conscience continue to deal with someone who is so vengeful. You’ve proven you’re incapable of responding in a civil manner towards me when I have not insulted you in any similar way. It’s been a pattern & if you & I were in person I’d simply walk away & pray for you.

My disability makes my time precious & my family comes before internet commenting. That you would make fun of my need to prioritize my family over responding online says so much more about you than me.

I was planning on answering your questions but your last little dig is my last straw. I’m sure you’ll say I’m weak or not answering you b/c I’m scared or stupid or a TERF or whatever disparaging term you can think of & that’s fine. I won’t be goaded into your games. Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners