Posts Tagged ‘cell phones’
Washington, DC (AP) – In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court validated an execution sentence for a Long Island man convicted of talking loudly on his cellphone during a train commute into Manhattan two years ago.
Irving Whitaker, 42, of Lakeview, boarded the 7:40 AM train to Jamaica, Queens on a Tuesday morning in July 2011. Within minutes of displaying his ticket for the conductor, Whitaker produced a mobile phone and began conversing loudly with a succession of interlocutors, repeatedly ignoring fellow commuters’ admonitions and requests to either reduce his volume or desist from talking. While some passengers managed to move to other cars, others on the increasingly crowded train were forced to remain in the same car as Whitaker. Word of one passenger’s misbehavior reached the conductor, but the latter was unable to negotiate the tide of commuters fleeing Whitaker’s company in order to reach the offender to remedy the situation.
As the awkwardness and unpleasantness in Whitaker’s car reached its peak, dozens of passengers rushed to get out as fast as they could at Jamaica, the next stop. Two platform bystanders were killed in the stampede and another six were fatally mauled as they were forced in front of an oncoming train on the facing track. A further twenty were injured.
Whitaker pleaded not guilty to eight charges of manslaughter, contending that he was not forcing anyone to leave; they could simply ignore his conversations as they did one another every minute of every commute. The jury was unmoved, however, and found Whitaker guilty on all counts. State Supreme Court Judge Fred Bodoff cited the defendant’s unrepentant attitude in sentencing Whitaker beyond that which state law provides, which is a maximum of 20 years for manslaughter. Bodoff noted other aggravating aspects of the defendant’s behavior, such as a tendency to laugh nervously and nasally at every single one of his own statements, and handed down a sentence of death by electric chair.
Last year a federal appeals court ruled that although the judge had not adhered to the mandatory sentencing guidelines, the circumstances of the case justified this exception. The appeals court decision focused on Whitaker’s repeated, lengthy use of “Uhhhhhhhh,” before each phrase.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case several months ago, and closing arguments were delivered in August. In a rare move, each justice elected to write a separate decision. Justices Bader-Ginsburg and Scalia found the defendant’s actions unconscionable enough in themselves to validate the death penalty, while Justices Sotomayor and Alito cited Whitaker’s overuse of, “bizarre,” “whaaaaaat?” and “I’m tellin’ ya.” Justices Kennedy, Roberts, and Kagan also mentioned the content of the defendant’s discourse, which never deviated from celebrity gossip; the continuing woes of the New York Jets football franchise and how to fix them, as if he possesses some special knowledge and expertise; and the unnecessarily salacious details of the very public affair that his secretary was having with the head of some other department at work. Justice Thomas recused himself, as he owns a significant number of shares of several telecommunications companies.
New York State is expected to finally execute Whitaker in December, barring a pardon from Governor Andrew Cuomo. A spokesman for the governor was quoted today as saying Mr. Cuomo would sooner walk on his lips through a sewage treatment plant than grant such a pardon.
You might consider yourself unworthy of the attention – and I would wholeheartedly agree – but you still might be at risk of having your phone hacked. So here are some tips for keeping your voice mail secure, even if you think the DVD drive is just a fancier cup holder than a CD drive:
1. Ditch your phone entirely and communicate only by telegram or bicycle messenger service.
2. Strike first by hacking your own phone, with an implement such as a meat cleaver or hatchet.
3. Record an intolerably long and grating outgoing message so that no one will have the patience to leave you any voice mail.
4. If you suspect someone has been hacking into your voice mail, just keep telling anyone who will listen, rather than contacting your provider or the authorities. It’s so much more satisfying to have something to complain about than to actually do anything about it.
5. Have your phone answered by a secretary instead of a machine or software. To avoid having your secretary hacked, stand over your secretary with a mallet, using it to wipe the secretary’s memory after each message is taken.
6. Use your phone to make threatening calls to prominent figures in organized crime. Openly mock their ability to track you down. Voice mail will no longer be your problem.
7. Use one of those old-fashioned rotary mobile phones that don’t come equipped with voice mail.
8. If you send me $1,500 by PayPal, I will magically make your voice mail hack-proof.
9. An all-prune-juice diet will help you focus on aspects of your life more fundamental than some silly electronic message system.
10. Anything more technologically advanced than the typewriter is an affront to the Lord. You flagrant sinners deserve all the trouble you get.
Having just seen a headline about a busted organ-trafficking ring, I had to wonder: what’s the big deal?
Why doesn’t anyone get worked up about trafficking in pianos? Harps? Tubas? If you’re going to implement all sorts of strict rules about trafficking in instruments, ban the friggin accordion – but what’s the problem with organs?
Is it that they’re unwieldy? That they can take up entire rooms? That they make a lot of noise, so the neighbors might file some sort of grievance? Hey, I think anyone learning to play violin should have to spend the first six months playing in a soundproof underground chamber, but you don’t see tons of governmental or so-called “rights” groups agitating for any regulation of those.
Is it because the organ is one of those can’t-really-classify-them kinds of instruments – that it’s huge, but essentially a wind instrument? With a keyboard? Well, why should pianos get a free ride? No one can make up their minds whether they’re keyboard, string or percussion, so what’s the double standard when it comes to organs? Is it because pianos can claim to be furniture, so they’re exempt from the whole instrument thing?
I gotta tell you, as a parent, the most aggravating class of instrument is percussion, hands down (hard). But you don’t see drum trafficking anywhere near the top of anyone’s priorities – unless “drug” was just a typo for “drum” that got out of hand and no one had the guts to call the whole thing off. A likely story, buster. If that is your real name.
I can come up with a whole list of instruments I’d rather see regulated – we can start with the soprano saxophone (Kenny G is an assault on the ears) and move on to the ukulele, but I’m not picky about the order. At the same time, we can revoke the licenses of anyone who plays the Mister Softee ice cream truck tune more than once per neighborhood per day. Yes, I’m sure you’re selling just ice cream, Mr. Softee, when I can hear you around Washington Heights at 3 in the morning. Kids a-plenty to please then.
And while mobile phones are tightly regulated -the FCC don’t mess around – no one seems to think that the ringtone industry has anything to answer for. It’s high time to start clamping down on that hazard – why are the authorities wasting everyone’s time trying to stop trafficking in organs?
Not too long ago, I pontificated on the prevalence of superfluous phone features. I am both relieved and alarmed to report that the new phone, with its newfangled magic, has ceased to perform the one function I need it to do: the damn thing won’t make or receive calls. So I’ve reverted to my old machine, temperamental as it is. Predictability is important (you knew I was going to say that).
The term “grim satisfaction” comes to mind. The relief stems from the fact that this collapse of yet another system in my life has had minimal impact. Along with that comes the inevitable trepidation: what’s next? Did I leave a Voodoo doll of me lying around somewhere? Have the poltergeists decided to hold their annual convention all around me? (“Hello. My Name Is Bumpen Greind”) (Shaman you for thinking that).
Come to think of it, this sort of thing goes farther back than I realized. The house we live in incorporates a number of features that were new to us when they were installed, such as toilets with no external tank – wall-mounted units with a button on the wall behind them. We asked the designer whether cracking open the wall is the only way to effect repairs. “They never need repair,” she assured us. Until one of them plumb fell off the wall. “That never happens,” said the guy who reattached it. True, it hasn’t budged in the five years since, but of course one doesn’t expect to have to make such observations about toilets (generally, the only movements we associate with toilets are not generated by the toilet itself).
We could also consider the perpetually leaky roof and skylight (where aesthetics apparently trumped functionality), but who has time for such troublesome matters? I’m busy waiting for the refrigerator repairman.
I have the most amazing mobile phone. You know what it does? It makes calls. It receives calls. It remembers numbers. Unfortunately, I have been dissuaded from further use of this phone. Alas, it has aged, and recently acquired a tendency to turn off at random times.
Hearing of this crisis, my loyal brother-in-law swooped in and bought not one, but two phones, with various bells and whistles of which I’d never dreamed. Ok, that’s not strictly true. I did have a dream once that involved a cellphone camera, a pair of fuzzy dice and a ukulele. Or maybe it was a vuvuzela. You’d have to ask the cows.
Anyway, this new phone does waaay more than a phone should. All you people out there surfing the web on screens no larger than a standard Hoyle playing card: GET A LIFE. Thank you. I do not need this phone’s many features, but the manufacturers seems to have conspired not to offer anything basic anymore, or they’ve redefined “basic” to mean “more advanced than Star Trek (the original; the Next Generation and Voyager models will be released in 2012 and 2015, respectively), but without the funky Vulcan ears”.
I don’t want games, no matter how awesome they might be. I don’t want a camera; it’s just another thing that can (and will, given recent weeks) malfunction. I don’t want an mp3 player; there’s enough noise in my life as it is. I don’t even want to send text messages. I waste enough time posting to my blog – why would I need to add distractions?
The only cellphone feature I find cool is on my wife’s phone: a flashlight. THAT is handy. Especially when you’re walking along the street at night and you want to avoid bumping into the idiots pecking away at their mobile devices instead of looking where they’re going.