6 19 2021

There are a lot of things with life, so many feelings and reflections that I try and remind myself of. When I think of something that I’m processing, it’s never just one thing. It is so many of them, or at least the most that I can articulate and capture in my mind. There is more than just one thing. I have a very distinct memory of my father telling me this once when I was younger in the context of assigning one reason to something and how it is childish to do so. I often forget this one thing and then I have to remind myself of it. This past week my tooth broke, my uncle died, and if these two things were the only two things I landed on then the whammy would have gotten me. I struggle with family loss and how to best communicate sorrow and comfort. It’s something I have learned to improve by talking directly to the person affected about the loss. I admit it is aspirational, as processing can be difficult. It’s something I never do perfectly, but it is something I am working on. I think improvement in general is something I admire in people, like how when I see someone running, I say out loud or maybe to myself, keep going, girl!

The last time I talked to my uncle, he was in the hospital and I explained to him that I was having a difficult time talking before I started sobbing. The last thing he texted me was to keep my head up, and that it was going to be OK. Imagine someone dying saying that to a physically healthy person!

Last summer I was able to visit with him and we would text each other when it was too dangerous for him to visit during the pandemic. I told him we’d have future cheeseburgers to look forward to. We had shared a joke the last time we visited in person about how I wasn’t excited to see him just for food based reasons. Lots of family get togethers are surrounded by food. To future cheeseburgers, I have since cheered in BBQ get togethers with others, where I hold a burger next to theirs and cheers to future burgers. I’m thinking about the idea of toasting to this cheeseburger next time, as next time may not come, and “to this cheeseburger!” sounds more appropriately celebratory for the job this burger is doing for me at the time.

Dreams help prepare me for the worst situations sometimes. The amount of teeth I have lost in dreams pales in comparison to how many I have the ability to lose. So that when I bit into a new piece of gum, thinking I had bit into a rock, and then realized it was pieces of my tooth, it was actually a relief. It was not horrifying at all, and completely painless. Sometimes the fear of a thing is worse than something actually happening. This idea applies to losing a tooth.

Several weeks prior to my uncle’s death, I had a dream about my Mema. She passed away six years ago, and in the dream she still had her wits about her. She was shopping in a mall with my sister and mother, and as I saw Mema walking to the ladies’ room, she fell on the ground and started asking for my mom. I yelled for my sister and mom and we surrounded Mema. In my dream she was still able to talk and remember things, and in my dream it was like I was in her mind, and she kept saying over and over again, I can do this! I can do this! I wonder if she were talking to herself about transitioning to the other side, coaching herself through it, or if she were actually telling herself that she could get through to me in my dream. The meaning I assign to my dreams is something that sometimes helps with comforting myself, as I feel family lives in your heart, even though they are no longer on this earth.

I have been over and over in my mind the past months, the past years, when I was younger, how my dad would tell me the most horrifying feeling he had when he was young was realizing his own mortality. Someday, it’s going to be me. Sometimes it’s not just that one thing, it’s never just one thing, I must remind myself. Since his passing I sometimes have seen my uncle in other people, a lumbering, good-natured aging hippie Santa Claus with shoulder length white hair and a beard to match. Good-natured because he was and is still in my mind. As a personal reminder he’s got doppelgängers everywhere.

It’s funny the ways that music talks to people. A ton of my music has meaning embedded in it and sometimes the music on the radio or in my mind or in an ear worm acts as a sort of divining rod to the people whom I believe are thinking of me or maybe I’m thinking of. I think about the songs that exist for certain reasons, and I know that your feelings and emotions are held in your endocrine system for a lifetime. This is why I recall certain moments in my life when I listen to Pablo Honey by Radiohead or Pink Floyd’s The Wall and still feel very attached in the moment that was that time, even though I have lost touch with those people or have fallen from their contact completely. It’s often the many formative years I hold in my mind that those memories seem so strong, about the same time when my hormones are raging and likely imprinting the hand deeply in the wall with chemicals that remind me of other people I have known.

And people can think about something in such a way that it almost seems magic, but where does a thought come from? It is never just one thing as this mystery passes through me, and how over a lifetime a person processes events differently at certain times, processes grief in different ways, and I could not walk you through those stages and processes, I just simply know that processing grief and our connections to those around us is lifelong, its knowing nothing to me until after I have felt it, in a fleeting certainty that I register as my body would register a thought and have another thought about that first idea. So like the surface tension of water a person is constantly growing from its first reconciliation, negotiated through the sums, entirety, or improvisation of that thing that I could not press my thumb into and name, but rather illuminate on a wall that sticks your shadow on for a moment before you move away from its light.


lifting shop

When I was in middle school I got good grades. My lowest grade was a B+ in 8th grade algebra, an advanced course for kids who would go on to study geometry as freshmen in high school. I know I struggled to understand the ideas in that class. The concepts were foreign to me: using variables to get answers made no sense. Factoring was impossible, and my brain did not catch on until I was older how to compute polynomial equations. I still do not know how to solve them. I have weaknesses, out of my own cognitive limitations or due to the fact that I never took the time to learn the lessons. But one thing I do know that I had learned at that young age what cheating was.

In 8th grade life science class, I sat next to a kid who was a trouble maker. The teacher had thrown his desk across the room one day after he recited one too many Jerky Boy quotes as clever retorts to questions like: what are the seven classifications of living things? I never blamed the kid. He was cool. He had to own that. Taking his position on what he must have seen himself as did not make him immune to the rules, but simply an afterthought. His young memoir might have read: The Indirect Consequence of Bart Simpson Economics and the High Cost of Trying to be Him. This might be a quarterly review of bad kid behavior that would be published as a sort of poster child magazine for what not to do, or for what to do when you want to get into trouble. In magazine form it might have amassed an enormous following in the 1990’s. Today it would be a highly acclaimed blog written by the newest generation of pranksters.

While taking a test sitting next to this kid I got the sense that he was looking over at my paper. Glancing out of the corner of my eye through my hair I felt like he was planting his eyes where they did not belong. The hair on my neck felt weird. I froze. In an automatic response, I covered my paper. I curled my arm around my test, cradling it in a way saying, “Don’t worry, baby. I won’t let anything happen to you.” I’m not sure if I went into protection mode because he was actually looking over at my paper, or not. Maybe what I thought about him and what he must have felt about himself prompted me to take proactive action, but that’s not the point. I didn’t have to be taught how to prevent cheating or what cheating was back then.

This covering of the test was a sort of universal sign that had been instilled at a very early age. Thanks to teacher instruction, I knew at the age of 13 that cheating was wrong and to prevent it at all costs. Teachers often pace up and down the length of student rows during tests to discourage looking up. Mr. Lynch was my sixth grade English teacher. Before the vocabulary tests, he would say, “Keep your eyes on your fries or it will spell your demise.” Thanks to the culture of academic learning, most classroom management styles include placing student desks far enough away from each other so as to prevent cheating. A teacher must be present in the classroom while students take the test. These are not simply tenants to live by, but rather the environment in which students learn acceptable norms of study and instruction.

I do not feel ashamed that I covered my paper, although that kid accused me of “thinking that he was cheating off me.” I was supposed to feel embarrassed, paranoid, weird, for my reaction, but I never did and I guess I probably never will. The one thing that I realize now is that there are ways of instilling ideas that will stick with you your whole life. As one grows older, the ways in which one can cheat change from test taking to more intricate forms of plagiarism. The preventative measures morph from covering the test paper to legal protection, trademark, and patent law.

Intellectual property includes inventions: literary and artistic works; symbols, names, and images used in commerce (WIPO). There are two categories of intellectual property: industrial property, which includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications, and copyright, which covers literary works, films, music, artistic works, and architectural design (WIPO).

Intellectual property rights allow the creator of intellectual property to make profit without harm from those who would steal their property. The protections of intellectual property sustain things like the film industry, clothing lines, and technological gadgets such as the iPhone.

The idea of industry protection reminds me of the story of a lawsuit that was filed in federal court over the movie Out of the Furnace.

Seven of the 17 plaintiffs – all members of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation — use Degroat as their surname or middle name. In the movie, [Woody] Harrelson portrays Harlan Degroat, the leader of a violent criminal gang who lives in the mountains of New Jersey.

The film follows the film’s star, Christian Bale, as he tries to keep a younger brother played by Casey Affleck from the clutches of Degroat’s criminal gang.

“The community is depicted as lawless, drug addicted, impoverished and violent,” lawyers for the Ramapoughs wrote. (Zambito)

Lawyers for the film’s producers, Relativity Media and Appian Way, headed by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, warned that if the lawsuit went forward it would expose the film industry to legal challenges from those who disagreed with a movie’s content.

“Plaintiff’s lawsuit, if permitted to proceed beyond the pleading state, will chill free speech by subjecting creators and distributors of movies and other works of fiction to liability whenever some members of a distinct ethnic, cultural social or other definable group dislike how their group is presented,” attorney Mark Marino wrote in April (Zambito).

The real danger over these lawsuits is without intellectual property rights, the film industry would be vulnerable to attacks like these, resulting in a proliferation of its profits to those who were not creators, but rather, fraudulent profiteers of intellectual property.

In a similar case of patent law, money changes hands, this time due to patent violation. This case takes the instance of using someone else’s patented technology as a violation of patent law. The patent holder of 504 sued Mark Maron, comedian and host of WTF podcast (Chace). “Others who have been sued include Jesse Thorne, host of public radio show, Bullseye, ABC, CBS, and Adam Corolla” (Chace).

Jim Logan, a New Hampshire man, applied for his patent in 1996 (Chace). His idea was audio could be downloaded from the internet and listened to by consumers (Chace). Specifically the 504 patent “covers important technology related to automatically identifying and retrieving media files representing episodes and a series of those episodes becoming available. These patented techniques are commonly used in podcasting” (Chace).

In the 90’s Jim Logan started a company, Personal Audio, which tried to build podcasting technology. This technology ended up in the form of science magazines recorded onto cassette tape (Chace). Although the tapes didn’t last, his patent came in handy. In 2007, Logan sued Apple and won 8.5 million dollars for stealing his podcast patent (Chace). The suit was appealed and Apple settled for an undisclosed amount (Chace). The judge found that the iTunes application was an infringement of patent 504. Before the technology was available, iTunes violated the idea of a podcast, where a menu or array of episodes of audio are available to a consumer (Chace). Although the technology was not available at the time it was created in 1996, the patent was violated (Chace).

Jim Logan’s company didn’t create iTunes, and his patents would not have told you how to build them: where to put the processor, which lines of code to include in the program, but once the engineers at Apple figured it out, and Jim Logan came out of hiding and sued them (Chace). The thin film that wraps itself around patent law is a thinly veiled premise that an idea can then be wrapped around any technology that accomplishes the goal of the patent, years, even decades after the patent was created. This brings about conflict. When the every man, just doing his thing, can be prosecuted, extorted out of his own livelihood, there is a problem (Chace). President Obama even spoke out against this (Chace). The problem of patent law is an ongoing one, and it remains to be seen how it will be resolved, with regulation, more laws, or even more patents as band aids for the failed patent regulation of recent years. From cases of patent violation to plagiarism, the issue can be similar, but the outcomes are quite different.

Journalistic plagiarism is a representation of someone else’s ideas or direct quotes without proper attribution. Without having quotation marks around a passage or refraining from crediting the source, an author is committing plagiarism. The problem with plagiarism is that it happens everywhere, with author’s lesser known or those highly lauded in the international community.

Kendra Marr resigned from Politico on October 13, 2011, due to her inclusion of passages from other writers without proper attribution or quotation (Sporer). “[T]he articles drew from a range of sources without proper attribution, including reporting from the Washington, D.C.-based newspaper The Hill, the Associated Press (AP), and the Scripps-Howard News Service, the note said (Sporer).” On Nov. 10, 2011, Jim Romenesko resigned from The Poynter Institute following accusations of improper quote attribution, bringing an abrupt end to his 12-year tenure running the think tank’s media aggregation blog (Sporer).

In March of 2011 (Pexton) Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Sari Horwitz copied segments of stories from The Arizona Republic “in whole or in part” without attribution (Sporer). The Washington Post suspended Sari Horwitz for three months for copying substantial portions of stories from The Arizona Republic “in whole or in part” without attribution (Sporer). Horwitz copied and pasted material from the Republic directly without attribution on two separate occasions in March during her coverage of the investigation of accused Arizona gunman Jared Lee Loughner (Sporer). George Orwell Prize-winning journalist Johann Hari directly copied and pasted a quote from a book in London’s The Independent (Sporer). “Hari took a four month unpaid leave” (Sporer).

The solution to plagiarism is simple. Writing for Chicago Magazine’s staff blog The 312, Whet Moser wrote in an October 14 post that referring to the original article with full attribution and advancing its reporting with original research was a writing format that presents “a simple, ethical solution” (Sporer). “Steve Myers of the journalism think tank The Poynter Institute said, ‘Just because someone doesn’t aim to malign doesn’t make his actions benign.’ [H]e proposed attribution as a solution to some types of plagiarism” (Sporer).

In a recent article in Plagiarism Today, Jonathan Bailey outlines the pressures of journalism in today’s high paced world. As a solution, Jonathan Bailey writes, “At some point, the only way to keep up with the demands of the job is take shortcuts. Plagiarism, fabrication and recycling are ethically dubious but effective ways to share minutes or hours off of production time” (Bailey). That plagiarism affords one an eloquent justification for prolonged employment seems ridiculous. The solution to plagiarism is to cite appropriately and credit the author. It doesn’t take that much time to insert quotation marks and parenthetical citation. The justification for plagiarism is seemingly endless.

Bailey goes on to compare the pace of the journalism profession to the pace of actual plagiarists. “At some point it is almost physically impossible for anyone to meet the writing demands without taking shortcuts. This is why essay mills, which have to turn around complex and lengthy research papers in as little as a day, have high rates of plagiarism themselves. When journalists have to churn out specialized text at the same rate as essay mill authors, ethics and training may not be enough to save them.” (Bailey)

Bailey says that the pace of the internet has made the expectations of online publishers too high to achieve without plagiarism. “Ever since the Internet became central to the way people consume content, there’s been a push by editors and publishers to create more and more content, to beat competitors by being the first online, having the most stories and iterating quickly” (Bailey). The ultimate fate of this ugly practice, however, is easy to poke holes in. “Unfortunately, due to how easy it is to detect plagiarism, it will likely be plagiarism that will serve as the early warning” (Bailey). Initially, I’m not sure if Bailey himself is in the right profession. If he cannot keep up with the high pace of writing, he should leave the writing profession to those who can. I reflect on what has failed Bailey, and understand how his story represents an even greater population of Baileys, those who plagiarize. Of this group, some plagiarize with this level of consciousness, and yet others often plagiarize out of ignorance. Taking a long-term view, the kids who sat next to Bailey in the classroom, were they Baileys, too? Aren’t we all just little Baileys, waiting to hatch? It’s like a virus in waiting, lying dormant for years, or something inherent in us all that inevitably clicks on. There is a way to cut down on plagiarism, and it starts in the classroom.

According to the American Psychology Association website, there are four strategies that prevent plagiarism in an academic setting. The first strategy is to create assignments that require more than summarization, but rather ask for specific questions that expect the student to read and understand the source material so that he can integrate it into the assignment (Prohaska). The second rule is for the teacher to explain the expectations and define plagiarism, including debriefing on the ease of plagiarism detection technology (Prohaska). The third guideline is to show students how to avoid plagiarism and to ask for students’ definition of plagiarism (Prohaska). This allows the teacher to monitor students’ opinions and helps clear up any ambiguous meanings, and promotes autonomous decision making for the student throughout the writing process (Prohaska). The fourth suggestion is to show students how to properly paraphrase quotes (Prohaska). “Students may assume that the likelihood of successfully plagiarizing is low when an instructor has devoted time and effort to teaching about it” (Prohaska). The efforts in academia set the foundation for ethical behavior in life, not only for the future writers and journalists but for everyone else who does something else with their careers.

Anyone in this country knows about cheating, that it does happen, and it probably happened that you’ve witnessed it or been a part of it in some way. This is a systemic problem in that any measure of success requires that you do well to avoid it. There are measurements for success and guidelines to adhere to, and that you’ve followed the rules implies that you will probably succeed at following the rules, but doesn’t that just mean that you have successfully avoided breaking the rules? Although there are rules, following them does not make you an automatic success. Students will perform in any number of ways. There are still students that are coming up in the system who have yet to be marked as plagiarists.

Although there are deterrents, there will always be behaviors that lie outside the acceptable norms of good behavior. It’s just our way. Failure happens. Smoking still looks cool. People still fail to wash their hands as often as they should. Even nurses don’t wash after touching germs. How everything is relative, there must always be a range of characters that comprise the human population. There are better and worse grades on a scale of A through F. There are good and bad apples. And the way through this world is not to ignore the problem children, but to teach them as well as they can be taught, reaching through the rungs as best as you can to get to them so that you can make an impact. This is true the same way that someone picks up an apple and says to it, “I can trust you as far as I can throw you.” This is also a way of measuring someone, how well they can score on a test, or how well they behaved in grade school, before the numbers really amounted to anything major. The importance here is that it’s still anyone’s game. Anyone can try to succeed and play by the rules, but it’s still cool to be like Bart Simpson.


Bailey, Jonathan. “The Looming Plagiarism Crisis.” Plagiarism Today. Plagiarism Today, 29 Jul.

  1. Web. 24 Feb. 2015. https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2014/07/29/looming-plagiarism-crisis/.

Chace, Zoe. “How One Patent Could Take Down One Comedian.” npr.org. NPR, 5 June 2013.

Web. 1 March 2015. http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=188719954&m=188841801.

Council of Writing Program Administrators, National Council of Teachers of English, and

National Writing Project. Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing. CWPA, NCTE, and NWP, 2011. PDF file.

Paxton, Patrick B. “The damage done by Post reporter Sari Horwitz’s plagiarism.” The

Washington Post. The Washington Post, 18 March 2011. Web. 1 March 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-damage-done-by-post-reporter-sari-horwitzs-plagiarism/2011/03/18/ABgtIIs_story.html.

Prohaska, PhD, Vincent. “Encouraging students’ ethical behavior.” American Psychology

Association. APA, May 2013. Web. March 8 2015. http://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/ptn/2013/05/ethical-behavior.aspx.

Sporer, Mikel J. “Attribution Controversies Prompt Reexamination of What Constitutes

Journalistic Plagiarism.” UNM. UNM Bulletin 17.1 (2011): n. pag. Web. 1 March 2015. http://silha.umn.edu/news/Fall2011/attributionplagiarism.html.

World Intellectual Property Organization. What is Intellectual Property? WIPO, n.d. PDF file.


Zambito, Thomas. “Judge tosses out Ramapough Mountain Indians lawsuit over “Out of the

Furnace”.” nj.com nj.com, 15 May, 2014. Web. 1 March, 2015. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2014/05/judge_tosses_out_ramapough_mountain_indians_lawsuit_over_out_of_the_furnace.html.

duty of care

I wrote this piece for a class I took back in 2015. Although my initial response has fallen away from how I felt while writing this essay, I consider what sounds occur in a sea shell, and how things pull away from the original sound once you realize the ear takes in electrical current and, if this does not occur, not sound has been made in the first place.

Most people love to hear a good story. Nowadays, if one listens to something on the radio, the expectation is the news is correct. The sources have been verified. The truths have been fact-checked. Many people listen and take it to heart, or not. If you ignore the news, maybe it’s as good as if you nominally put faith in journalistic integrity or blindly believe everything you hear. Sometimes when one hears a story, he simply nods his head in compliance; in one ear and out the other. If he’s listened or not, he would believe the message.

Despite all the best intentions, the media is flawed. There are codes of ethics boards in every news circuit who commit to unrelenting honesty, integrity, and independence; and at the same time commit to do no harm to its people; and yet there are retraction departments whose job it is to correct past news with fact restoration. When I think about journalistic errors, I recall an episode in season one of the TV show Arrested Development. Michael Cera’s character, George Michael, says of print media, “OK, they printed a retraction in the spring supplement” (Hurwitz and Rosenstock). The media is flawed, and it every so often breaks its own codes of ethics to maintain ratings and to stay in business. Confounding variables, including pseudoscience and irresponsible journalism, are in direct conflict with the media’s duty of care for its audience.

Duty of care is “an obligation to prevent danger or imminent threat through omission or skewing of facts” (Puttman). As a recent Ted Talk shows, the story of the Paisley snail stems from a court case involving a woman suffering from gastroenteritis and shock after finding a snail in a bottle of ginger beer she was drinking. The resulting case of Donoghue vs. Stevenson found that the manufacturer of ginger beer had a duty of care for May Donoghue. The judge on the case explained, “You must take care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbor” (Puttnam). The case set a legal precedent, as May had not purchased the drink from the manufacturer, and there was no contract between them.

In the case of the media, duty of care is important. In an episode of On The Media, Bob Garfield outlines “A Dangerous View“, about the newest addition to the all-female ABC TV show The View. A statement published by the TV network heralds Jenny McCarthy’s impact, who will discuss her “parenting beliefs”, among them an anti-vaccine regimen that prevents autism (Garfield). McCarthy will disseminate her beliefs, founded on a long-discredited study that says autism is caused by vaccines.

The study that connects autism to vaccines is part of a 1998 study of 12 kids by Andrew Wakefield, a doctor who was paid by lawyers to sue the vaccine manufacturer. The co-authors were unaware of the conflicting interest, and as a result the doctor lost his medical license and the study was retracted (Garfield). As a result, anti-vaccine regimens once considered fringe will be considered by millions of viewers. Celebrities can be very influential, even on issues where they are not well-informed, but what happens when mass media appoints them as spokespeople for advertising incorrect information? What is the impact of the population?

In an interview with Oprah, Jenny McCarthy explains how she came upon her beliefs. She googled vaccines, and the first hit was autism (Garfield). McCarthy actually continues. “The University of Google is where I got my degree from” (Garfield).

Problem is, the University Google sucks, because anyone can teach there, no matter how dishonest, how superstitious, how ignorant. On the University of Google, you can also learn about how the US government blew up the World Trade Center, how crystals magically heal, how Jews kill Gentile infants for their blood and how easy it is to get rich in real estate. (Garfield)

Media’s beacon of bad science has created increasing numbers of non-vaccinated herds of children who, in recent years, have contributed to outbreaks of diseases that fifty years ago were considered all but eradicated by vaccine: measles, mumps, and pertussis (whooping cough). “In 2010, a whooping cough outbreak in California sickened 9,120 people, more than in any year since 1947. Ten infants died; babies are too young to be vaccinated” (Shute). As of January 25, 2015,

nearly 80 people in the United States are now confirmed to have measles, most of them with confirmed links to the outbreak that started at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park. The California Department of Public Health was able to find vaccination records for some of the infected. They found that at least 28 had not received the measles vaccine. (Rath)

Some of the public health policies that had long been upheld are being eroded, and the contribution of pseudo-science in news shows how the media’s fundamental lack of duty of care has set public health back decades.

Another example of media’s negligent duty of care comes from a New York based newspaper called the Journal News. Their article published:

the names and addresses of all legal gun-permit owners in the region. The backlash was swift, prompting unified outcries for the paper to take down the locations from their online affiliate site, lohud.com. Critics claimed it would enable criminals to more easily identify which homes to break in to, putting many residents in serious danger. In response to the public reaction, the Journal News not only said that they would not take down the current list, but would seek to add to it. The Journal News abdicated responsibility for any wrongdoing in their aggregation of personal information, declaring that it was all available through Freedom of Information requests. (Jacoutot)

The author of the article, clamoring for justification, cited his own freedom of information request, but he failed to take into account that the people whom he sought to incriminate, gun owners, were in fact the safest of the population. Ironically, the most at-risk were the people who were not on the gun ownership list. As a direct result of this article, NY-SAFE was passed, providing exemptions for gun owners’ name and address information being posted to public databases (Worley). In the media’s recklessness, laws will be passed to protect a democracy.

The media’s lack of care can pose a threat to those who have been exonerated in court, but who are vilified in public opinion. When the protests over the Darren Wilson verdict were at their peak, authors of the New York Times published an article including the town and street address names of Darren Wilson, the officer who killed an unarmed citizen, Michael Brown. The protests, resulting in cars being burned out and flipped, looting, and a mass exodus of people through the streets of major U.S. cities, reminded me of the pitchforks and torches scene from the film Frankenstein.

The media’s purposefully harmful dissemination of information and direction from these protestors is a dangerous combination. Breitbart’s John Nolte writes, ‘the New York Times had no qualms whatsoever about publishing almost all the information needed for Officer Darren Wilson’s enemies to track him and his wife down at home.’ Other outlets, including the New York Post and Fox News, have highlighted the newspaper’s decision. ‘If anything happens to that man, his family or that home, I hold them — the culpability is with [the New York Times],’ said Fox News’ Sean Hannity. (Wemple)

For the initial research of this essay, I had planned on outlining a detailed analysis of journalists’ code of ethics. The more I looked, the more in common much of the core values seemed, so I decided to rest on one. The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics is simple. Their motto: “improving and protecting journalism since 1909. Seek truth and report it.

Minimize Harm. Act Independently. Be accountable and transparent” (SJP). The exacting detail was in the disclaimer. “The code should be read as a whole; individual principles should not be taken out of context. It is not, nor can it be under the First Amendment, legally enforceable” (SJP). I looked around for an ideal model for media integrity and code of ethics and I found the resting place: the First Amendment.

A fact I so often forget about the media is they are just like you and me. In the words of Charleton Heston as shown in the movie Soylent Green, “it’s people.” If I hadn’t the mind to see them as more than a group, a conglomerate comprised of headlines, the truth is perhaps more difficult to see. In all its glory, the media is just people, flawed as we are, biased as the red running through our veins. The media has every right to speak its mind as you or I, without fear of retribution. I am reminded of a scene from season two of the TV show Arrested Development. In the words of Buster Bluth, “I don’t agree with your dirty doings here, but I will defend with my life your right to do it” (Hurwitcz and Vallely).


Garfield, Bob. “A dangerous view.” Onthemedia.org. 19 July 2013. 23 January 2015. WNYC. http://www.onthemedia.org/story/307721-dangerous-view/

Hurwitz, Mitchell and Rosenstock, Richard. “The One Where Michael Leaves.” Wikia.com. Wikia Entertainment. 24 January 2015. http://arresteddevelopment.wikia.com/wiki/Transcript_of_The_One_Where_Michael_Leaves

Hurwitz, Mitchell and Vallely, Jim. “Transcript of The One Where They Build a House.” Wikia.com. Wikia Entertainment. 24 January 2015. http://arresteddevelopment.wikia.com/wiki/Transcript_of_The_One_Where_They_Build_a_House

Jacoutot, Bryan. “Negative consequences of NY newspaper’s bad journalism continue to mount.” Legalinsurrection.com. Legal Insurrection, 5 January 2013. 23 January 2015. http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/01/negative-consequences-of-ny-newspapers-bad-journalism-continue-to-mount/

Puttnam, David. “Does the media have a ‘duty of care’?” TED.com. TED, June 2013. 22 January 2015. https://www.ted.com/talks/david_puttnam_what_happens_when_the_media_s_priority_is_profit?language=enLecture

Rath, Arun. “Measles Outbreak Linked To Disneyland hits Over 70 Cases.” NPR.org. NPR, 24 January 2015. 24 January 2015.


Shute, Nancy. “Vaccine refusals fueled California’s whooping cough epidemic.” NPR.org. NPR, 23 September 2013. 22 January 2015. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/09/25/226147147/vaccine-refusals-fueled-californias-whooping-cough-epidemic

SPJ. “Code of Ethics.” SPJ.org. Society of Professional Journalists, 6 September 2014. 22 January 2015. http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Wemple, Erik. “New York Times responds to criticism about Darren Wilson’s address.” Washingtonpost.com. Washington Post, 26 November, 2014. 23 January 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/11/26/new-york-times-responds-to-criticism-about-darren-wilsons-address/

Worley, Dwight R. “SAFE Act: Gun permit records sealed by the thousands in N.Y.” Lohud.com. Lohud, 30 August 2014. 24 January 2015. http://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/2014/08/30/pistol-permits-ny-safe-opt-outs-public-records-county-clerks/14891475/

Half-time Report

If I had an egg timer for every thoughtful thing I ever had to say about someone I hip checked during a soccer game, it might lose count, not because counting minutes is obsolete, but rather because you never really stop feeling guilty for getting caught. Not because I cared so much for their well-being, but because in hind sight, I stopped games, I committed fouls, I was caught kicking the astro turf which was supposed to be green grass that ended up actually being the goalie’s big toe.

That I still recall those well wishes today says something that I cannot yet speak to, but I feel is a close metric to the ways in which children learn not through purely altruistic purposes, but rather through shame, hurt, and embarrassment that something they did was wrong. If some behavior is found to be unacceptable by peers and authority figures, the upper lip in disgust curls up. That creeping feeling of of being found out and shamed or humiliated by one’s own worst practices in the name of bad manners or unsportsmanlike conduct is something normal people grow out of or learn never to repeat by one-time open retribution, including but not limited to the cheer leaders throwing out a little pom-pom heavy haiku about you at half time in order to reform your better nature.

You are either with us or against us, that’s who, but what’s who? The royal who in this scenario is the thoughtful premise of the social contract that includes us in our own collectively agreed upon levels of acceptable progress, and throws us out on our own commonly held standards of bad acts. If one were to draw a line in the sand, no one would want to be voted off that island, the one with real people on it. No man is ever an island. I cannot imagine being in a place whereby some kind of lord of the flies directive turns us into targets of retribution for all our unsound achievements, but our collective contract on which the bargain of civilized behavior stands is buoyed offshore in that island’s shallow water. It is in these depths that we are all born out of. The low culture of our collective bad decisions piles up, in our mind’s collective bank accounts, accruing interest for some obscure rainy day fund in which it is entirely acceptable to reminisce about past mistakes.

Whether you are with one other person or in the company of thousands, there is a kind of catharsis to it, the admission of old bad deeds. There is a quality that exudes a connecting warmth that I might compare to the Catholic guilt at confession. What you can share you can shed, in the shame that took years off your life, or in the freedom that now permits you to speak freely about it. If we do not have opportunities to confess, the guilt binds us to guilt and shame and as it builds it may, as it might, manifest itself, through the years, in the form of a speeding ticket, a court summons for not paying said speeding ticket, and to subsequent time spent in jail for failing to appear in court. (As a side note, this is not an autobiographical admission of guilt, it is just a random sampling of one possible outcome from bad decisions.) What you did today you might not do tomorrow, but nobody who said that magically reversed the course of history.

That being said, all we can do is reflect on our bad decisions, learn from them, and make different choices. The story of shared guilt spills out over our own internal narratives to modern day NBA in one of my favorite teams, the Boston Celtics. During a 2015 season game between the Cavaliers and the Celtics, Kelly Olynyk accidentally popped out Kevin Love’s shoulder. In response, Kelly tried calling Kevin “multiple times”, reaching out to apologize time and again, but to no avail (Newport, 2015).

Kevin Love was interviewed as saying he did not return any of Kelly’s calls, saying, “Oh yeah. I’m over it. I’m just trying to get healthy” (Newport, 2015).

A bit of back story on Kelly Olynyk. He is known in the league as the Canadian mamba. The alias is rooted in the mash up of the meaning behind what a poisonous snake can do to a person and the lasting impression a Canadian can make. See also: Black Mamba in the Quentin Tarantino film, Kill Bill I and Kill Bill II. Played by Daryl Hannah, she is distinguished by the patch she wears over one eye socket. Uma Thurman’s character pulled out an eye with her bare fingers in the first Kill Bill.

Black Mamba is also annotated by the snakes she leaves in the homes of her victims, who lie in wait to poison and subsequently snuff them out. Although Kelly Olynyk is none of those things, neither possessing only one eye nor sicking snakes on his competition, he is from Canada, and he is distinguished not only by his potential, but also his noted passiveness when running to the hoop. In a 2014 Bleacher Report article, Michael Pina wrote about Kelly Olynyk in the following way: “But once his assertiveness catches up with his still-growing talent, Olynyk will be one of the most difficult matchups in the league” (Pina, 2014). For a young man in the NBA, one who is a bit shy on offense, can be also talented, in spite of himself.

Although there may be snakes lying at our feet in any doomsday scenario, there is always a risk of regressing back to the days when you thought the rapture might take you up, away from your worries, so you would not have to face a fate worse than losing a game, or potentially being so embarrassed you would kindly let the floor swallow you whole. These daily conundrums might become less and less depending on the day we are having, working through our anxieties, our doubts, our own sense of self-defeat. The rows of thoughts we line up like chairs in a stadium that are all there to look at you to see you be the best you can be. When we fail, we are bent so low, trying to find the words that are missing to account for what went wrong. It is in the redemption of shared forgiveness that one can forge ahead alongside other people’s rows of chairs, filled with people who came to watch you win.






Works Cited

Newport, Kyle. Cavaliers’ Kevin Love Won’t Accept Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk’s Apology

for Injury. Bleacher Report. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. 7 May, 2015. Web. 4 Mar. 2016. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2457245-cavaliers-kevin-love-wont-accept-celtics-kelly-olynyks-apologies-for-injury

Pina, Michael. How Kelly Olynyk Can Become the Star the Boston Celtics Believe He

Will Be. Bleacher Report. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. 28 Nov., 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2016. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2281596-how-kelly-olynyk-can-become-the-star-the-boston-celtics-believe-he-will-be


Changing the headline

When I think about security, I wonder about how things are affected by it. Simply from the appearance of something feeling safe, one might do a number of things: take a walk at dusk; let a baby pet a pit bull; use a zip line over a thirty feet drop over rocks. At one time or another, someone decided these things were OK to do so they did them. Without the appearance of something being dangerous, someone still might reflect on those risks and brave the consequences. You don’t have to be brave to do them, but knowing what you do can result in injury is one component that someone may or may not consider before doing anything.

I know a girl who rode a zip line in Vermont who fell onto a pile of rocks. She suffered a concussion that changed her ability to process loud noises. For a year and a half after the fall, she could not read or use the computer for more than minutes at a time. She could not be in the same room as two other people who were speaking in regular volume. Indoor lights bothered her, so she wore sunglasses during the day. Before her accident, she was able to process sound, read books, and log onto Facebook without experiencing illness or needing to wear protective eyewear. She could run, jump, and yell and she was like a wild animal, but her injury changed her, if for a moment.

I feel like people know so much nowadays, about the dangers of things. The risks involved in anything are so great. We know how in an instant all we thought to be guaranteed might vanish or somehow slip away. This is not unlike how when we use the computer, we assume things will be secure. The simple click of a button affords us this. Now and again I realize how with simplicity I rely on convenience to be there, technology never to fail, and people to go on how they did the day before and the day before that.

Because as people we are reliant on our past experiences to help predict future outcomes, since yesterday was somehow fine, I am confident that tomorrow will be the same way. This is a human error, how we can be so over-confident on the future based on past results. This is how people can do seemingly silly things based on the appearance of security, the mark of one day being measured by the prior day’s success. What we can see with our failed logic is a pattern that reads similarly to a gambler in a casino, or a thrill seeker in life. The measure of security is not from the precautions we have taken to assure we are immune to threat, but the ignorance of real attacks that might happen in the absence of any precaution whatsoever.

The inability for people who use wireless technology to protect their connection is a gamble that everyone takes. In a study published in the Communications of the ACM, Chenowith, Minch, and Tabor used a college campus to study the behavior (Chenowith, Minch, & Tabor, 2006, p. 135).  The study examined “wireless user vulnerabilities” and “security practices” in an attempt at measuring the users whose connections are not protected (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135). The study also tallied the wireless devices “compromised by malicious applications”, such as viruses, worms, and surveillance software (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135).

Our goal was to directly investigate how well wireless users are securing their computers and the threat level associated with wireless networks. Using a university campus wireless network, we performed a vulnerability scan of systems shortly after users associated to campus access points. The scans were performed using Nmap (www.insecure.org), a popular open source scanning tool. The results of the Nmap scans were used to determine the proportion of wireless users not using a firewall, the prevalence of malicious applications, and the proportion of users with open ports. (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135)

The reason the surveyors used the population they did was its direct representation of use of wireless networks by the general population. Other than user authentication, there are no security measures (such as WEP) in place on the wireless network, although users agree at login that their system patches are current, that they are using an anti- virus program, and that they understand they are subject to university computing policies (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135). If users desire additional security, they must provide it themselves (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135). This environment of minimal network-level security and heavy reliance on user initiative makes the campus wireless network reasonably representative of public hotspot-based wireless networks in general (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135).

Subjects for the study were authorized users of the campus wireless network. The total university population includes 18,599 students and approximately 2,100 faculty and staff. The university is a commuter campus with a non-traditional population of 15,779 undergraduate students (average age 26) and 1,663 graduate students (average age 36), with 54% female and 45% male (1% unspecified). Most students live off campus, and many have part-time jobs or full-time careers, often with one of several local high-tech firms. We view the non-traditional nature of the student subjects as a positive factor for the study as we believe it makes them more representative of the general public and workforce than traditional students would be. (Chenowith, et al, 2006, p. 135)

Since the study is a mirror of the real world, the results are used as a measurement of the steps people take or do not take to secure their wireless connections in the general population.

The results of the study are illuminating. The data of the Nmap scan shows that 304 computers (9.13% of the 3,331 computers) were not using a firewall (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136). Even with a firewall enabled, systems can have open ports (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136).

Since any open port is a potential security risk (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136), the study measured open ports, and found 287 computers (8.62% ) scanned had at least one detectable open port (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136). Of the 287 computers with detectable open ports, 189 (65.85%) had at least one open port with well-known vulnerabilities. Of the 287 computers with detectable open ports, 98 (34.15%) had no open ports with well-known vulnerabilities (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136). Simply put, when a user had open ports, more than 65% of the time at least one of these was a port that posed an important security risk (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136).

The most frequently open ports are also some of the most dangerous. The top three open ports were designed for file and print sharing across computer clusters and can potentially be exploited by attackers through null sessions. (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136)

Individual systems can use “null sessions” (no username or password required) to establish connections between computers using these ports. It is well known within the security community that it is possible for an attacker to exploit null sessions and gain access to a system through one of these ports. (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135)

Malware can do a lot of things, including keystroke logging, username and password detection, and online monitoring of web activity. What this does is allow someone else besides yourself to silently view and capture your personal information, including credit card accounts, personal emails, google search history, and social security number.

A total of 17 computers (0.5% of the computers scanned) had at least one malware application installed. Although a small number relative to the total number of wireless users, the existence of malware is important because any one of these infected systems may be used to launch attacks against the larger client population. (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136)

Many infected computers had multiple malware applications present. Of particular interest, and somewhat alarming, is the presence of network monitoring and packet sniffing applications. Of the 17 infected computers, 12 also had at least one network monitoring/packet sniffing application. The most common network monitoring tools found were Nessus, Bigbrother, and Netsaint. (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136)

Are the vulnerabilities in a system consistent within every user? No. However, on shared networks, the connection is only as secure as its most vulnerable link. In the cases where 17 computers were already infected with malware, these hubs were bastions for potential attacks on every other computer in all 3,331 computers. If everyone is as ignorant as the least protected user, then everyone is under threat of attack.

Is the technology worth the risk? This question is asked in a more meaningful way, especially when users who also carry work laptops and mobile devices with them outside of work expose their company to security breaches. The threat is real, but the question remains. Is it worth it? Do you feel lucky? I am reminded of so many things when I think about this risk, among them an episode of the NBC TV show 30 Rock. In one episode, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) are talking about how to change the public’s perception of Tracy.


Everyone thought Prince Hal was a drunken wastrel. But when he became king he transformed himself into a wise and just ruler. He changed the headline. That’s what you have to do, Tracy. If you’re open to it, I’m very good at giving advice. For instance, with your obit[uary] problem. You’ve spent years creating a certain public image, but you can change that. You just have to do what Prince Hal did.


You know something, Jackie D? That thing I said earlier about Prince Hal got me thinking. I have to change my headline.


Yes, that’s what I just said. Now if I can help you…


No, no, no Jackie D. I don’t need your help. I’m Tracy Jordan. When I go to sleep, nothing happens in the world. (Gentlemen’s Intermission)

Sometimes we all want to be Prince Hal. If we go to sleep, nothing happens in the world. We are not at risk. Nothing bad happens. This is the same approach that so many take when securing their computers at home. If the risk never comes to bear, it all might be best left to chance.


Chenowith, T., Minch, R., & Tabor, S. (2010). Wireless Insecurity: Examining User

Security Behavior on Public Networks. Communications of the ACM, 53(2), 134-138. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=043d2ad0-0c4c-47a3-b75a-0d0faef42c18%40sessionmgr4004&vid=1&hid=4210.

Gentleman’s Intermission. (2015). Retrieved from


The Green Place

Sometimes during the summer I like to go swimming. Oh who am I fooling? I always want to be immersed in some new body of water; it’s like braving a dangerous element in exchange for a feeling I cannot quite express. I cannot breathe underwater, but I can hear something down there that gives me a kind of strange comfort in a world that I cannot fully see but feel and understand with different senses. I will lay belly up with my ears underwater for hours just to look up and wonder at the sky.

Walden pond in Concord, MA, is a bell-shaped freshwater pond, and I’ll head there early in the mornings on some Sundays in August. Around the perimeter, there are these little private beaches, rock steps leading into the water. The place is welcoming and is a bit of a mirage, but it is very much there. I go there so seldom now it often slips from my memory, but it is not my imagination. The water has a magical feeling to it, and gets so warm in summer that it sustains life in different ways. A few summers ago, news outlets reported a strain of jellyfish was living in the water.  What did people make of it, a typically salt-water organism living in fresh water?

“Gwen Acton thought the dime-sized translucent pods she saw … were strange, beautiful seeds that had drifted down to the water surface from some flowering plant” (Daley, 2010).

Melissa Webster said, “We saw them on most of our swims during September, and on our last swim Oct. 1. Definitely cool” (Associated Press, 2010)!

Gsinger said, “I have been swimming in Walden for 30 years and had never previously seen them.  Has something changed” (Associated Press, 2010)?

Chris said, “This is a very scary event. They are a great danger to the native animals in the lakes and to the water. [T]his is a event that should be looked into with great con[c]ern is a sign of the danger nature is in” (Associated Press, 2010)

Although they pose no threat to humans, there was a variety of perceptions. Some were in awe, some were happy to see them, some were frightened, and others feared the apocalypse. The extent to which anything can tell us about being human is our perceptions. Anything we encounter can yield a feeling or impulse which people attach meaning to. It could be a jellyfish or something else.

Years before today our ancestors looked up at the sky and saw the sun and moon and told each other stories about what each one did. There were gods possessing great virtue that ruled the stars. There were heroes and villains entangled in legends of a shared narrative that people thought up which crafted some understanding as to what was going on in the world.

Today we know the sun and moon are planets that orbit our solar system. We have the answers to what we think are the big questions. We think we have it all figured out, and to a large extent, we do. A lot of what we place meaning on will propel us into the next age. Sometimes a jellyfish is bad, other times he is a fascination. What we do with these meanings will be reflected in our behavior.

This week I have been reflecting on how people think about things, namely bad things. Oops, there I’ve gone and placed meaning to something without thinking. This week I have been thinking a bit about computer security vulnerabilities and how they are perceived. What I found reminds me of the problems I have faced in my own life, and how those problems were thought of in that time. In retrospect, with what I know now about it, I consider these initial impressions to have fallen away or changed somewhat in my thinking.

The research I have done has changed my view of computer vulnerabilities as not something to fear for loss of one’s data, but rather an industry unto itself in a larger narrative that does not involve me directly, but rather my data and personal information. I am part of the bigger war, but I feel less a participant in it, less in control of my own personal information, and oddly more at peace with computer vulnerabilities than I thought I would.

I have often thought about it for a moment and forgotten it, a shell picked up on the shore and thrown back into the sea. I have stored up moments that I would like to feel have given me a sense of something, but then I remember how things in the past exist only in your mind. How you cannot take it out and measure it, but you can place a meaning onto something and that can be everything that it is now, so that all that is left is your impression of what used to be.

Sometimes your own conscious thought dissolves into the layers of waves how an ocean does, in the sense that your cognitive awareness doesn’t even have surface tension, so the points of arrival and departure are always changing, always different and new, reflective. This is how one person can have a thought about a thought. This sense, this wondering is an unfolding of constantly redeemed perks or chits that have no expiration date and whose value is changing in relation to meaning. These things may be only in the mind, but they are without a doubt changing and evolving as a direct function of one’s thinking and reflexive mind.

Are there known vulnerabilities in software that are rolled out without adequate testing? To answer this question, one need only think of one’s own individual computer experiences. Have you ever had a hard time using a computer? Yes. I have an impression of Microsoft that runs from a history of their long and confusing installation process, which makes it more challenging to add software to your computer. “On the Windows desktop, users have to open their browsers, search the web, download an application from a website, and install it manually” (“HTG Explains, 2015).

As a result, there are a number of things that can happen, including security breaches.

Many less-savvy users may end up downloading dangerous software or clicking a fake “Download” button that leads to disguised malware. Users may download and run potentially dangerous types of files, such as screensavers, without knowing that they contain executable code and can infect their system. People downloading pirated software from questionable websites may end up infected. (“HTG Explains,” 2015)

In comparison, Apple, whose built-in features make it simple to add programs, one can simply press a button and voila! The program is added without so much as pointing a finger and clicking. Apple users install applications and software “that come from a trusted, centralized repository. Users open their app store or package manager, search for the program, and install it” (“HTG Explains,” 2015). I have reflected on these two experiences, the Microsoft design and the Apple design, and balked.

Who would ever pay money on the experience of Microsoft? It creates a product in which outside services and repair are almost a requirement. There is a much higher risk of viruses as PC has been the target of the majority of worms.

Windows XP shipped without a firewall enabled and network services were exposed directly to the Internet, which made it an easy target for worms. At one point, the SANS Internet Storm Center estimated an unpatched Windows XP system would be infected within four minutes of connecting it directly to the Internet, due to worms like Blaster. (“HTG Explains,” 2015)

In addition, Windows XP’s autorun feature automatically ran applications on media devices connected to the computer. This allowed Sony to install a rootkit on Windows systems by adding it to their audio CDs, and savvy criminals began leaving infected USB drives lying around near companies they wanted to compromise. If an employee picked up the USB drive and plugged it into a company computer, it would infect the computer. And, because most users logged in as Administrator users, the malware would run with administrative privileges and have complete access to the computer. (“HTG Explains,” 2015)

Part of the problem is the intention of Windows’ original design. “Historically, Windows was not engineered for security. While Linux and Apple’s Mac OS X (based on Unix) were built from the ground-up to be multi-user operating systems that allowed users to log in with limited user accounts, the original versions of Windows never were” (“HTG Explains,” 2015).

DOS was a single-user operating system, and the initial versions of Windows were built on top of DOS. Windows 3.1, 95, 98, and Me may have looked like advanced operating systems at the time, but they were actually running on top of the single-user DOS. DOS didn’t have proper user accounts, file permissions, or other security restrictions. (“HTG Explains,” 2015)

Despite, or perhaps due largely in part to the existing vulnerabilities, there is an opportunity to profit on it. When one is looking at the framework of insecure computer systems as an object not of dread and avoidance, but rather a part of a larger economic system, things start to look different. The research I came across includes an article published in Time magazine from July 2014 titled “The Code War”.

The idea that a software bug can be worth actual dollars and cents is an odd one. Bugs are mistakes; people generally pay money to fix them. The fact that there’s a market for them is a consequence of the larger oddness of our present technological era, in which our entire world — our businesses, medical records, social lives, governments — is emigrating bit by bit out of physical reality and into the software-lined innards of computers in the form of data. A lot of people are interested in that data, for reasons both good and bad. Some of those people are spies. Some of them are criminals. Bugs are what they use to get at it. (Calabresi, Frizzel, & Grossman, 2014)

The Time article interviews Aaron Portnoy, co-founder of Austin-based Exodus (Calabresi et al., 2014). Portnoy’s career began as a high school student where he hacked into computer system at the Massachusetts Academy of Math & Science in Worcester (Calabresi et al., 2014). Where Aaron’s initial hacking career dovetails in with his current project is his love of hacking.

Portnoy, now 28, is the co-founder of a two-year-old company in Austin called Exodus Intelligence. Its mission statement reads, “Our goal is to provide clients with actionable information, capabilities, and context for our exclusive zero-day vulnerabilities.” Which means — translated from the quasi-paramilitary parlance that’s endemic to the software-security industry — that Exodus Intelligence finds and sells bugs, specifically the kind of bugs that could potentially give a third party access to a computer, the same way Portnoy got access to his high school’s network. They’re worth a lot of money. Vulnerabilities in popular applications and operating systems have been known to change hands for hundreds of thousands of dollars each. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

The industry of computer vulnerabilities is an enormous and international one. For example:

in May [2014] when the U.S. indicted five members of the Chinese army for stealing data from American companies, including Westinghouse and Alcoa. That wasn’t an anomaly; it’s the norm, and it’s getting more normal all the time. Retired Army general Keith Alexander, who formerly headed both the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, has called China’s ongoing electronic theft of American intellectual property “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” Two weeks ago several security firms confirmed that a group believed to be backed by the Russian government has been systematically hacking the U.S.’s energy infrastructure since at least 2012. According to IBM’s security division, the average American company fielded a total of 16,856 attacks in 2013. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

The history of computer vulnerabilities goes back twenty years.

In 1995 Netscape announced a “Bugs Bounty” program that paid cash to anybody who could find flaws in its browser. The company … just wanted to fix holes in its software. In 2002 a security firm called iDefense started buying up vulnerabilities of all kinds; another company, TippingPoint, launched a similar program in 2005. Both programs were created as alternatives to the increasingly active and chaotic exchange of zero-days on the open market — essentially they acted as safe zero-day disposal facilities, a bit like radioactive-waste repositories. If you found a bug, instead of selling it to the highest bidder, who would do God knows what with it, you could sell it to iDefense or TippingPoint for a reliable price, and they would alert their clients to the problem and work with the software vendor to get the bug patched. iDefense and TippingPoint had something else in common too: they both, in successive years, 2005 and 2006, hired an intern named Aaron Portnoy. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

What Portnoy does now is not so different from his internship at TippingPoint. At Exodus, nine engineers sit at computers all day:

banging on software looking for ways in: browsers, email clients, instant-messaging clients, Flash, Java, industrial control systems, anything an attacker could use as an entry point. “One thing we try to maintain is a capability in every major backup software out there, because that’s one of the juiciest targets,” Portnoy says. “If you get on an enterprise network, what is an administrator going to want to protect? Their important information. What do they use to protect that? Backup software.” (Calabresi et al., 2014)

When a researcher at Exodus finds a vulnerability, he or she types it up in a professional-looking report along with technical documentation that explains what it does, where it lives, what it gets you, how to spot it, what versions of the software it works on, how one could mitigate it and so on. Most important, Exodus provides you with an exploit, which is the procedure you’d have to follow to actually trigger the bug and take advantage of it. “Every single vulnerability that we give our customers comes with a working exploit,” Portnoy says. “If we can’t exploit it, we don’t even bother telling anyone. It’s not worth it.” Voilà, one freshly minted zero-day vulnerability. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

Portnoy takes pride in the superior quality and effectiveness of Exodus’ exploits. “We try to make them as nasty and invasive as possible,” he explains. “We tout what we deliver as indicative of or surpassing the current technical capabilities of people who are actually actively attacking others.” When a company hires Exodus, it does so on a subscription basis: you get a certain number of bugs a year for such-and-such amount of money. Subscriptions start at around $200,000. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

The vulnerabilities business has a mixed reputation, based on the presumption that the bugs it provides are being used for criminal or unethical purposes. A Washington, D.C., company called Endgame that sold vulnerabilities to the government for years was dubbed “the Blackwater of hacking” by Forbes magazine. Last year, when Endgame announced that it was getting out of the game, it did so triumphantly, as if it were kicking a heroin habit: “The exploit business is a crummy business to be in,” its CEO said. (Calabresi et al., 2014)

The reality is more complex. Exodus’ clients come in two basic types, offensive and defensive. Playing for the defense are security firms and antivirus vendors who are looking for information they can integrate into their products, or who want to keep their clients up to speed on what threats are out there. On offense are penetration testers, consultants who use Exodus’ zero-days to play the “red team” in simulated attacks on their own or other people’s networks. “If they want to show what a real attack would look like from a determined adversary,” Portnoy says, “we give them the tools to do that.” (Calabresi et al., 2014)

As far as one confirmed fear will take you, there is comfort in the fact that many computer vulnerabilities, malicious bugs, and computer worms exist, as part of the general landscape always will, for a hefty profit. As the author Chuck Palahniuk writes, men will be “slaves to the IKEA nesting instinct” (Kopal, 2009). Women will believe they are less than gorgeous beasts until they consume millions of dollars in beauty products to make them whole again. Kids will buy all the music they want knowing that they are what they like, not who they are based on personality, values, or behavior, found and maintained through authentic human interaction or genuine relationships with other people.

One can sleep soundly by taking a sedative of life, by truly not worrying over the thought that your online life is being exploited by some personal vendetta or a deeper need to defame your character. Those fears are for the people who buy and sell the glitches that get our data. It puts to bed all the paranoid claims that lie awake with you at night, toiling, wondering as you look up at the ceiling. To get out of this half make believe world made mostly of wires, one must find a green place, free from the dry desert you once thought was the barren lands. You must stop searching out there in the mirage and come home. Know you are part of the wasteland, and be thankful it’s not just all about you.

Related articles:




Associated Press. 2010, Sep. 10. Mysterious Jellyfish Invade Walden Pond. Retrieved from


Calabresi, M., Frizzel, S., & Grossman, L. Jul. 21, 2014. The Code War. Time. 184(3), 18-25.



Daley, Beth. 2010, Sep. 10. Mystery Blooms on Walden Pond. Retrieved from


Kopal, Indira. 2009, Oct. 19. Tyler Durden’s anti-consumerism quotes. Retrieved from


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code page 437

I think about some things in my life that have fallen away or entirely changed, and technology is certainly one of them. When I was in middle school, it was nearly the dark ages. I wrote my first research paper on the effects of smokeless tobacco. To gather research I went to the Northeastern University library at the Burlington, MA, campus. My mom and I would go together after school. She would drive me to the library. I would photocopy all my sources, then we would pile in the car, and head back home.

The resources I used are the brilliance of the caveman’s first paintings, well preserved as a record in time. The renderings of our ancestors that our recent relatives hang in the Smithsonian museum are not unlike the relics of my youth, which can likely still be found in any present-day library procured by modern-day librarians: books, encyclopedias, and microfiche.

To write back then I used a family computer that ran on MSDOS, with a black screen monitor that displayed orange letters in a font called code page 437 (“Code”). I printed out my final draft on a dot matrix printer. I think about the resources I used then and how much things have changed.

What was once a multi-venue, multi-resource process has been condensed down into something much more simple. At home I have my laptop, computer, and printer. I don’t need to go outside of my home, or outside my one device to gather research. I can simply go online. I go to google or use ebscoHost to research my papers. This convenience has eliminated time and money and has liquidated the process of research into something effortless. I simply think of what I need, point and click, and I’ve got what I need. Writing and research is simply a whim at my fingertips.

When I think about Steve Jobs, initially I remember my first Apple technologies. The day was dawning. The first laptop I ever owned was an iMac laptop and iPod I got as Christmas presents. I used the iTunes application on my computer to upload songs to my iPod, which allowed me to listen to music in my car or on headphones while running. I think about Steve Jobs and I think about the technology, as I should. They weren’t necessarily interchangeable but in my mind they go hand in hand. Jobs was the keynote speaker for new Apple products. The procession congeals the Apple computer in a kind of sentience with Jobs that I think will remain in my heart for a long time, in his memory.

I do not know how these technologies would have formed in a different world. In a parallel universe these products may have originated on a different timeline or found their success from different makers. Had it been served on a plate with a glass of cold milk and chocolate chip cookies, I would have attributed its creation to Santa Claus, but it did not come about this way. Steve Jobs is credited with much of the commercial success of the Apple product line. His ability to speak and develop excitement has generated sales and success and as a result he has won countless awards.

Steve Jobs’ interest in typography directly contributed to the inclusion of type set design and writer’s applications, including MacWrite and MacPaint in some of the first Mac computers (Peterson).  His love of calligraphy and the study of the formation of letters in different fonts, with proper proportion and spacing, fascinated Jobs (The Apple History Channel). His inclusion of writing and research tools in his computer designs helped facilitate the revolution of the research and writing process.

After Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, he founded NeXT in 1985. NeXT introduced the first NeXT Computer in 1988, and the smaller NeXTstation in 1990. The NeXT computers experienced relatively limited sales, with estimates of about 50,000 units shipped in total. Nevertheless, its innovative object-oriented NeXTSTEP operating system and development environment were highly influential (“NeXT”).

The Next computer used the first graphical user interface and dynamic page generation design. The systems also came with a number of smaller built-in applications such as the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Oxford Quotations, the complete works of William Shakespeare, and the Digital Librarian search engine to access them. The NeXT computer was used to create the internet, where, in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee used Next to construct the first web browser and web server. (“NeXT”)

Jobs started Next and Pixar, which made the first computer animated film, Toy Story (“NeXT”). Pixar is the most successful computer animation studio ever (“NeXT”). Apple bought Next and they use their ideas for apple technology renaissance (“NeXT”).

Apple started focusing on integrated software for personal devices like cameras, camcorders, and PDAs. This was known as the Digital Hub Strategy; where, different devices and media link together sharing data and common functions. This worked really well for everything on the market except for digital music players. The devices were clunky and had pretty bad user interfaces, so to fix the problem Steve Jobs had the Apple engineers design a new music player, the iPod. The iPod came out in 2001 (“Apple Press”).

With its essential integrated software counterpart, iTunes, it was the product game changer that Apple needed to surpass its competition. The iPod once again showed Steve Jobs’ design values. It was clean, white, simple and elegant. It also introduced a mobile device user interface to the industry. This was the stepping stone to the next product that would again change the world of design. (Peterson)

Steve Jobs revolutionized the way that people use technology to access and learn about new music. What was once walkmen: cassette players and CD players tethered to the ears by headphones were static resources that could play one album at a time. IPods allowed a user interface to find new music. ITunes recommended new music with their predictive algorithms. With an iPod one could store an entire library of music with thousands of songs, as opposed to one album. On February 12, 2012, Jobs was posthumously awarded the Grammy Trustees Award, an award for those who have influenced the music industry in areas unrelated to performance (“Steve Jobs”).

In January 2007, the clean, sleek, simple, and elegant iPhone was introduced to the world. Not only did the iPhone (and 3 years later the iPad) jumpstart a whole new industry standard, Apple again, opened another new media platform for design professionals known as Mobile App Design (Peterson). Steve Jobs’ designs have inspired the way the media works. Most people can access news headlines from the likes of CNN, New York Times, BBC, with mobile applications. This has transformed news ratings systems from a TV platform to an individual window that anyone with an iPhone, smartphone, or other personal device can use.

Jobs was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, with Wozniak (among the first people to ever receive the honor), and a Jefferson Award for Public Service in the category “Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Under” (also known as the Samuel S. Beard Award) in 1987. On November 27, 2007, Jobs was named the most powerful person in business by Fortune magazine. (“Steve Jobs”)

In August 2009, Jobs was selected as the most admired entrepreneur among teenagers in a survey by Junior Achievement, having previously been named Entrepreneur of the Decade 20 years earlier in 1989, by Inc. magazine. On November 5, 2009, Jobs was named the CEO of the decade by Fortune magazine (“Steve Jobs”).

In November 2010, Jobs was ranked No.17 on Forbes: The World’s Most Powerful People (“Steve Jobs”). In January 2012, when young adults (ages 16 – 25) were asked to identify the greatest innovator of all time, Steve Jobs placed second behind Thomas Edison (“Steve Jobs”).

In March 2012, global business magazine Fortune named Steve Jobs the “greatest entrepreneur of our time”, describing him as “brilliant, visionary, inspiring”, and “the quintessential entrepreneur of our generation” (“Steve Jobs”).

Two films, Disney’s John Carter and Pixar’s Brave, are dedicated to Jobs. Steve Jobs was posthumously inducted as a Disney Legend on August 10, 2013 (“Steve Jobs”).

There is no question these awards and accolades have only scratched the surface of the legacy of Steve Jobs. Jobs was a man, and stands as a testament to the obelisks that the primates have encircled and made entirely their own. It is the discovery of fire that our Cro-Magnon forefathers came upon perhaps by chance, inevitably to find warmth. Sometimes people don’t criticize what they can’t understand, such as the brilliant engineer Steve Jobs. Who could fault him? He was brilliant. But the salesman Steve Jobs has been accused of so many crimes.

There’s hardly a cliche in the leftist lexicon liberals couldn’t have applied to Jobs and his customers: commodity fetishism, false consciousness, objectification and alienation, manufactured wants, the marketing of desire, and, most obviously, planned obsolescence. This last is the hoary charge from mid-century that American businessmen designed a product so it would soon be superseded by a similar product, compelling consumers to buy, buy, buy (Ferguson).

There is something that aligns perfectly with a formula that is inherent in us all. I am still trying to extrapolate. The variables are comprised of the American dream, entrepreneurship, and the capturing of what people all wish they had: tons of money. There is no question in my mind that Steve Jobs is the world’s greatest capitalist, yet to be toppled by the next big thing. The remains of this insight help me to step from this dark precipice to determine what many hold as a symbol of greatness, when, in essence, we have been enculturated to know this greatness is inside us all. To understand the idea of Steve Jobs, or any cult of personality that we might think is great, is to understand our own flawed notions of greatness.

In season three of Community, the community college study group is fiercely recruited by Glee club director Mr. Rad, played by Taran Killam, who, after losing the original members to a collective mental breakdown, preys on the group. “Glee, it’s like a drug that you use that turns pain into shoes and your shoes into dance” (“Baby Boomer”). The hypnotic song master croons to an unsuspecting target. Abed, played by Dani Pudi, sings, “Glee is what’ll spread to my friends like a virus that sends them to a healthier place” (“Baby Boomer”).  The infected members of the study group infect others and double their efforts, eventually forming a complete glee club that will supposedly go on to perform at regionals.

After Abed infects his best friend Troy, played by Donald Glover, they turn Pierce Hawthorne, played by Chevy Chase. Pierce, an aging baby boomer, is particularly vulnerable due to his demographic’s “well-documented, historical vanity” (“Baby Boomer”).

“You, Pierce? Your generation invented music” (“Baby Boomer”). Pierce responds, “I don’t know about invented; perfected maybe” (“Baby Boomer”). The ensuing anthem heralds Santa, having been part of Pierce’s peer group, who “fought at Woodstock and Vietnam, smoked a ton of acid and burned his bra” (“Baby Boomer”). The song credits Santa with the advent of “Spielberg and microchips” (“Baby Boomer”). Santa “invented Coca Cola and aerobics” (“Baby Boomer”). “He made the iron curtain and the Gremlins, too, fake butter and AIDS, and Twin Peaks” (“Baby Boomer”).

Pierce cuts in, singing, “You’re welcome for everything in the world. I’m Baby Boomer Santa, I bring the gift of the world” (“Baby Boomer”).

The remaining uninfected of the study group back out of the study room together, shaking their heads, promising each other it will never happen to them. They all became infected in the coming days, all succumbing to Glee.

Glee in this analogy is the hype that surrounds anything, the social distortion that echoes around something huge, the sequel trilogy to the Star Wars movies. They weren’t that great. I still love IV, V, and VI the best. They all have this place in my heart that will not be tarnished by the ensuing onslaught of the prequels. The first of the post-quels, Star Wars VII, is something I am eagerly anticipating, coming December 2015. It’s supposed to be great: “more practical effects, less CGI; captured on film, not digitally; and it will feel more authentic” (Mentel). It will have to be better than the prequels, in my hope of hopes.

In addition to the hype of inevitably bad movies, I think of incumbency as another useful marketing tool. “The percentage of incumbents who win reelection after seeking it in the U.S. House of Representatives has been over 80% for more than 50 years, and is often over 90%” (“The Power”). If he’s been in office for one term, what would another term hurt? The devil we know is safer than the devil we don’t. And that devil continues on to a lack luster second term, occupying space instead of breaking records or blowing our minds. “True, things can definitely get out of control when frothy-mouthed marketers promise life-changing miracles to get all of us to take notice” (Stapleton).

Regardless of the bad movies, there have been some great ones. And of the presidents we hold up as the top five, there are always some that we have marked off that list. But there will always be something else, something more that we have not seen or cannot see, not without the hype that extends to the world hope in the form of something we wish upon that grants us more wishes until we have witnessed something grander than all our expectations. And the fact that we saw it happen means that we all were there and we were a part of it. And it will be held up in the annals of time as something historical, important beyond words can comprehend.

Related articles:




“Apple Press Info.” Apple. Apple Inc., 2015. Web. 9 February 2015.


“Baby Boomer Santa.” Wikia. Wikia, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. http://community-


“Code page 437.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 7 January 2015. Web. 9 February

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_page_437.

Ferguson, Andrew. “The Steve Jobs Snow Job.” Commentary 132.5 (2011): 80. Print.

Mentel, Thomas. “8 Reasons Why Star Wars VII is Destined to Please.” The Cheat Sheet. The

Cheat Sheet, 10 Nov. 2013. Web 22 Feb. 2015. http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/8-reasons-why-star-wars-episode-vii-is-destined-to-please.html/?a=viewall.

“Next.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 23 January 2015. Web. 9 February 2015.


Peterson, Vicki. “How Steve Jobs Influenced the Modern World of Digital Design.” Symantec.

Symantec Corporation, 8 February 2013. Web. 9 February 2015.


Stapleton, Dan. “Opinion: Hype Isn’t Always A Bad Thing – Hype Is Hope.” IGN. IGN Games

Newsletter, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/01/31/opinion-hype-isnt-always-a-bad-thing-hype-is-hope.

“Steve Jobs.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 9 February 2015. Web. 9 February 2015.


The Apple History Channel. “Steve Jobs Commencement Speech 2005.” Youtube. Youtube, 6

March 2006. Web. 9 February 2015.

“The Power of Incumbency.” Boundless Political Science. Boundless, 02 Jul. 2014. Web. 22

Feb. 2015. https://www.boundless.com/political-science/textbooks/boundless-political-science-textbook/congress-11/congressional-elections-81/the-power-of-incumbency-446-1638/.


When I think of lawyers, I remember I do not know any personally, but I have seen them played on TV. One of my favorite shows is Community. Jeff Winger, played by Joel McHale, is a lawyer. His motto: “I discovered at a very early age that if I talked long enough I could make anything wrong or right. So either I’m God, or truth is relative. In either case BOOYAH” (“Winger Speeches”)! In his first speech, Winger exhibits his skills to diplomatically end conflict among members of his study group.

“ALRIGHT EVERYBODY!!! I want to say something, sit down.”— Jeff

“You don’t have to yell, I don’t appreciate your tone.”— Shirley

“You know what makes humans different from other animals?”— Jeff

“Feet.”— Troy

“No, come on bears have feet”— Pierce

“We are the only species on Earth that observe “Shark Week”. Sharks don’t even observe “Shark Week” but we do. For the same reason I can pick up this pencil, tell you its name is Steve and go like this (breaks pencil), and part of you dies just a little bit on the inside, because people can connect with anything. We can sympathize with a pencil, we can forgive a shark, and we can give Ben Affleck an Academy Award for Screenwriting.”— Jeff

“Big mistake.”— Pierce (“Winger Speeches”)

               When I think of lawyers, I don’t think of anyone in particular, no one real, anyway, but rather an impression of one I have seen on TV, something that runs like a little loop on repeat, something that always plays itself out time and time again as a reminder of that universal truth that reveals something bigger than what a TV show could do. A lawyer’s talent is a professional manipulation of words to create meaningful outcomes for the purpose of winning court cases and earning money. According to Forbes magazine, the best way for a lawyer to do well is to earn money through four strategies:

  1. Become an industry thought leader. If you want to have a very substantial and profitable career as a lawyer you will probably need to create a meaningful pipeline of new engagements.
  2. Strategically network with key referral sources. As part of becoming an industry thought leader, you’re communicating your expertise to existing and potential referral sources.
  3. Proactively manage existing relationships. Because of the characteristics of legal services coupled with your desire to be paid (and paid well), it’s wise to make the effort to adroitly manage client relationships.
  4. Master Millionaire Intelligence. For example, by employing the negotiation strategies of Millionaire Intelligence, you can be referred to clients on a consistent basis from other types of professionals without having to send them clients.
  5. For most lawyers the way to earn substantial monies is by being a rainmaker. Bringing in business usually trumps everything else when it comes time to set salaries and collect bonuses. By skillfully applying these four approaches, you can indeed crate a steady stream of highly satisfied clients (and a great deal of money). (Russ and Prince)

The lawyer’s ethics code is in direct conflict with his main goal. Making money is not an ethical guideline. When it comes to a man’s livelihood, survival, success, and greed are lines that have blurred to mean the same thing. “You want to earn as much as possible while maintaining the highest ethical standards” reads more like: make it obvious to no one that you’re trying to make as much money as you possibly can; just pretend like you’re asleep (Russ and Prince). Moreover, the lawyer’s creed must fall in line with strict regulations imposed by the Supreme Court. How does one obey the law and still make money? The rules have been bared out in court as sidelined efforts of corruption. Historically, the high court has enforced guidelines after the fact as the real players make money any way they know how: with flagrant disregard of or while trying to rewrite the rules.

The purpose of legal advertising is to maintain profitability in the legal profession. The foundation of success in any business is having a steady stream of clients who will buy a product.  Same goes for lawyers, who need plaintiffs for whom they can make a case and defend in court. The Supreme Court’s ruling that commercial speech is protected under the First Amendment allows lawyers to publish TV ads for the purpose of attracting interest.

The consumption of lawyer ads is as simple as turning off the television, and yet there is no question television is a powerful medium.

In a decision upholding rules requiring television advertising for legal services to be predominantly informational, the Supreme Court of New Jersey stated, “As the record before us and the general literature abundantly prove, the emotional impact of television advertising, in its ability to persuade subliminally, through symbols, music, drama, authority figures — the entire host of emotive non-rational techniques — far exceeds that of the print media and radio.” (“Lawyer Advertising”)

Nevertheless, television advertising is still within the control of the consumer. In this respect, the Supreme Court analysis set out in the Shapero case which distinguishes direct, targeted mail from in-person solicitation, seems applicable to television. The threat of overreaching inherent in face-to-face solicitation is not present when the consumer may avoid the message by merely averting his or her attention. (“Lawyer Advertising”)

We may change the channel, try and look away, and yet life is funny.  There is a need for government intervention when legal ads are in direct conflict with current laws, including the protections of commercial speech by the First Amendment, except in cases where advertising does something other than solicit basic services. For example, government intervention has been helpful in cases of story-telling, inflated promises for large payouts, or downright ridiculousness.

For instance, one Syracuse, New York lawyer had to go to federal court to protect his constitutional right to be ridiculous. Greg Beck of Public Citizen said, “We represented a, a firm who had a variety of ads that were supposed to be funny and entertaining, including ads that sort of made the lawyers look like they were giants stomping around the city of Syracuse and, for example, advising space aliens on personal injury claims.”

Bob Garfield said, “Sounds like a Japanese movie from 1962.”

“They were kind of funny,” Beck said. “They were silly. The bar does not like silliness, though. And it made clear that silly kind of ads are, are the source of ads that the rule was supposed to prohibit.” (Garfield)

The Boston-based James Sokolove is a lawyer who began publishing ads through print media and later in television. His commercials initially drew disdain by peers, but eventually generated a billion dollar profit (Garfield). Sokolove serves as a successful business model that generates millions for large conglomerates (Garfield). Advertisers such as The Relion Group use an independent role of actors to represent lawyers in commercials and later sell the referrals to off-camera litigators (Garfield). The Relion Group, a subsidiary of Lead Generation Technologies, funded by the Carlyle Group, doesn’t itself employ any lawyers (Garfield). The risk of damaging a lawyer’s reputation by appearing in an ad is too great. It would make him seem greedy, opportunistic, and turn the upper lip of potential clients.

In 1977, the profession experienced a seismic change in the genesis of lawyer advertising. Just one year after the Supreme Court established that the First Amendment protected commercial speech, state regulation of attorney advertising received national scrutiny in the Court’s landmark decision in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona. In short, the Court held that the First Amendment protected truthful advertising for routine legal services. In ruling that advertising by attorneys was a form of commercial speech protected by the First Amendment, the Court issued a clear caveat: it did not hold that advertising may not be regulated in any manner. In fact, the court delineated some of the permissible limitations on advertising: advertising that is false, deceptive, or misleading is subject to prior restraint. (Hyland)

What Bates v. Arizona did not do was maintain regulation on other forms of lawyer solicitation. Shortly after Bates, an ABA Journal-sponsored law poll reported more lawyers were inclined to solicit cases than were likely to advertise. The issue, however, was decided the next year by companion cases In re Primus, 436 U.S. 412 (1978) and Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Association, 436 U.S. 447 (1978). The Court held that in-person solicitation for pecuniary gain was subject to regulation as an important state interest. The “potential for overreaching is significantly greater when a lawyer, a professional trained in the art of persuasion, personally solicits an unsophisticated, injured or distressed person.” (“Lawyer Advertising”)

Legal solicitation can come from seemingly out of the blue, and it’s no surprise they often go unnoticed by disciplinary boards. “After the horrific crash of a Northwest airplane in Detroit, a man posing as a priest talked to the families of victims at the crash site. The “priest” also handed out the business card of a Florida attorney” (Hyland). Where some courts have determined this behavior to invade privacy and cause harm to victims, there are acts that slip past regulation.

McHenry, an attorney who sent letters to prospective personal injury victims, sued the Florida state bar for its decision that prohibited attorneys from soliciting personal injury and wrongful death clients “unless the accident or disaster occurred more than thirty days prior to the mailing of the communication” (Hyland).  The thirty-day ban on legal advertising directed at victims of recent accidents or injury protected victims of recent personal injury or death from invasion of privacy. The court found that the emotional state inhibits their ability to “evaluate direct-mail advertising from an attorney” (Hyland). “The Eleventh Circuit concluded, however, that neither interest was substantial enough to justify the ban” (Hyland).

Lawyers can mislead and use the system to their benefit, especially when using legal speak to mislead potential clients. In the case of Zauderer v. Disciplinary Counsel, lawyers were advertising that plaintiffs would be refunded all legal fees if there was no recovery (“Zauderer”). The Court stated that laymen would not be aware of the distinctions between “fees” and “costs” and could easily conclude that there would be no financial obligation (“Zauderer”). The Court concluded that the “assumption that substantial numbers of potential clients would be so misled is hardly a speculative one” (“Zauderer”).  Lawyers actively mislead potential clients by using legal jargon; their potential victims require protection by regulation.

Sometimes, if I think of laws as chains, there is a better case for it. In defiance of chains, some people keep trying to break free. In the case of lawyers, they can simply make money with inherent disregard of the chains. Abraham Lincoln, in his famous advice to the young man aspiring to the bar said that he should resolve to be an honest lawyer, and that if he could not do that, he should resolve to be honest and not to be a lawyer (Basler).  Perhaps criminal behavior is more universal than I first thought.

In an age where the law can prevent and enable lawyers from the success-money-greed paradigm, the lawyer must continue. He must figure out what he will do to survive. The law, as its edge turns, may hinder or help him. As he fights on, the cycle of the law is unending. This world curls like it would from the edge of a hamster wheel, the same as the edge of the Earth, only from it he can always see the edge of the horizon coming up quicker with each step. The decaying orbit of planets circles farther or closer away from the dream, the promise, the faint hope. The little guy keeps running on, not realizing that it’s never ending, a constant, daily struggle to be free.

Related articles:






Basler, Roy P., et al. “Abraham Lincoln’s Notes for a Law Lecture.” Abraham Lincoln Online. Abraham Lincoln Online, 2015. Web. 8 February 2015. http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/lawlect.htm.

Garfield, Bob. “The Upside of Legal Advertising.” Onthemedia.org. WNYC, 16 September 2011. Web. 26 January 2015. http://www.onthemedia.org/story/159134-upside-legal-advertising/transcript/.

Hyland Jr., William G. “Attorney advertising and the decline of the legal Profession.” Journal of the Legal Profession. 35.1 (2011): 339-383. Print.

“Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation Chapter from Lawyer Advertising at the Crossroads.” American Bar. American Bar Association, 2015. Web. 8 February 2015. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/resources/professionalism/crossroads.html.

Neville, Alan. “Community Season 1.flv.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 16 March 2012. Web. 8 February 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kyG0hV6H7Y.

Prince, Russ Alan and Rogers, Bruce. “How Lawyers Can Dramatically Boost their Incomes.” Forbes.com. Forbes. Web, 14 September 2012. Web 8 February 2015. http://www.forbes.com/sites/russprince/2012/09/14/how-lawyers-can-dramatically-boost-their-incomes/.

“Winger Speeches.”  Wikia. WikiaTV, n.d. Web. 8 February 2015. http://community-sitcom.wikia.com/wiki/Winger_speeches.

“Zauderer v. Disciplinary Counsel.” Justia. Justia, 2015. Web. 8 February 2015.https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/471/626/.