Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/21/2018, Part 2: Wait, It’s Afternoon Already!

Good afternoon!

Here are ethics items that have nothing to do with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School anti-Second Amendment  demogogues.

2. Unethical Lawsuit of the Year. Incredibly, the Democratic National Committee yesterday announced that it is suing the Trump campaign, the Russian government, and Wikileaks, accusing them of conspiring to disrupt the 2016 Presidential election.  Suits require facts. There are no facts to support this lawsuit, only speculation, rumors and propaganda. The legal analysts whose opinions I respect haven’t even acknowledged the suit yet, perhaps because they suspect, or know, that it is a cynical publicity ploy and merely laying the foundation for a Democratic Party fundraising blitz. (Using the civil courts for such purposes is unethical, of course.) The betting here (and elsewhere) is that the lawsuit will be dismissed in short order. It is grandstanding, and to my eye, pretty desperate grandstanding.  Such a lawsuit would open the Democrats, their allies and the Clinton campaign to all manner of intrusive and embarrassing discovery. My first reaction to the news was that this almost as stupid as Oscar Wilde’s criminal libel suit over being called “a Sodomite.”

Wikileaks had an amusing response:

“The Democrats are suing WikiLeaks and @JulianAssange for revealing how the DNC rigged the Democratic primaries. Help us counter-sue. We’ve never lost a publishing case and discovery is going to be amazing fun.”

3.  More future news! Ann Althouse flagged for us a future news (psychic news?) classic,  Morning Joe” Scarborough’s op-ed in the Washington Post, “It’s becoming clear that Trump won’t run in 2020”.

Althouse writes,

I’m reading the headline and laughing. It’s on the most-read list at The Washington Post. It’s what people want to read, and isn’t that what fake news is all about, giving the people what they want (and getting them to want what you want them to want)? “Allies are quietly admitting”… “Republicans are sensing”… and Joe Scarborough is picking up the message. It seems to me Trump has faced vicious opposition all along, and he keeps winning in spite of/because of it.

This isn’t really fake news, though. Psychic news or future news is a different unethical beast, and in this case, it’s just an abuse of punditry.  It becomes fake news when the headline “Trump won’t run for re-election, insiders say” starts turning up. What is especially ironic about this trend is that there has never been a President whose stated intentions have been so changeable and unreliable, and yet the very same journalists who complain about this are willing to run breathless stories about what some leaker claims he said was his intent. President trump can’t be counted upon to do this week what he said he would do last week, and the Post thinks it is worth publishing what Morning Joe’s sources say President Trump  plans on doing three years from now.

4. More on Randa Jarrar:  To its credit, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sided with the vicious professor and against Fresno State, which has announced that it would initiate an investigation into the hateful  tweets of Professor Randa Jarrar following the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush.   The college’s president, Joseph Castro, took to publicly  condemned the tweets as “not just a free speech issue,” but one of “common decency and respect.  Asked whether termination of the tenured professor was an option, Castro said that “all options are on the table,” adding, “This was beyond free speech. This was disrespectful.”

The FIRE joined with the ACLU of Northern California, Defending Rights & Dissent, Electronic Frontier Foundation, National Coalition Against Censorship, PEN America, Project Censored, and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression in  a letter to Castro reminding him that there is no First Amendment exception for “disrespectful” speech, and  that the First Amendment restricts the disciplinary consequences that a public university  may impose on a professor for speech expressed in her private capacity on matters of public concern.

Since FIRE is often pigeon-holed as a conservative group—it isn’t, it’s just that colleges and universities are usually trying to silence conservatives—this is an especially heartening position for it to take…not that I agree with it. As I have already written, Jarrar’s tweets cross into irresponsible conduct harmful to her employer territory. President Castro has heard from wealthy donors, and Jarrar appears to have harmed the school’s reputation, which has real financial consequences. Moreover, her tweets indicate that she is defiant, and cannot be trusted not to embarrass the school further, or worse. Unfortunately, by framing the issue as one of disrespect, Castro has undermined his own case.

No, you can’t fire a professor in a public university for disrespectful speech.

5 Finally, this consumer note. My parents used the same Hoover vacuum cleaner for 40 years. You plugged the thing in, and it cleaned the rugs, all of them. A small pedal raised the brushes so you could use it on floors. My household, in contrast, has owned at least seven vacuum cleaners of various sizes and models. None of them worked very well. All of them were overly complicated, and broke down quickly. The best cleaners have proved to be the non-electric variety. Finally, my wife, whose family also had a Hoover That Wouldn’t Die, went to Amazon and ordered its simplest Hoover model, with “three suction channels.”

When the thing arrived, she found it to be nearly impossible to push, so strong was the suction. Moreover, it wouldn’t work on my wife’s favorite oriental rug: it sucked so hard the rug stuck to the machine. In vain we looked for controls that would enable us to change to the less powerful “suction channel,” since it was obviously on the strongest one: any stronger would be like the electric hand-dryer that almost eats Ringo in “Help!”.

I called Hoover’s customer service. After the usual phone tree delays and about 15 minutes of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, I finally reached a representative. I gave her the model number, and described our problem.

“Oh,” she said, “that model is designed for wall to wall carpeting only. You can’t use it on an area rug. It will just get sucked up.”

” So we discovered. But your description of the model doesn’t say that,” I protested.

“No, but it does say you should call with any questions.”

“I didn’t have a question! We’ve never had any vacuum cleaner that sucked so hard you couldn’t use it on area rugs,” I said. “I assumed that it would work for all rugs, because your description didn’t suggest it wouldn’t.”

“You should have called, sir.”

“Okay, how do I get a different suction level? It says the model has three channels,” I asked.

“It doesn’t say three levels, sir. It says three channels. You can’t change the level.”

“That’s misleading, though. How am I supposed to know what a “channel” is? The word implies that the suction level can be adjusted,” I said.

“You should have called before your purchase and asked for an explanation, sir.”


The conversation deteriorated from there.

I suppose it would be bad for business if I wondered Northern Virginia, with a lantern, searching for an honest vacuum cleaner…



42 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/21/2018, Part 2: Wait, It’s Afternoon Already!

  1. 4. Randa reminds me of the Westboro Baptist Church. Hate them all you want, but being a moron is protected.

    5. A perfect spot for your situation is – a top-notch consumer site. They love stories like that.

  2. #4 Jack wrote, “Unfortunately, by framing the issue as one of disrespect, Castro has undermined his own case.”

    Think about, maybe “undermin[ing] his own case” is exactly what Castro wants to do so it appears that he’s trying to do something but legally his hands are tied by the Constitution and he’ll have to keep her on as a Professor; after all, “No, you can’t fire a professor in a public university for disrespectful speech.” With this approach by Castro, he can appease both sides until the controversy blows over and people forget about it; that’s what people are supposed to do when someone left of the political divide makes bad decisions and abuses their freedom of speech by attacking the political right..

    Of course if a right leaning Professor abuses their freedom of speech and unethically attacks the political left, the throngs of social justice warriors will be protesting in the streets, breaking windows, starting fires, and the right leaning President of the college would have to resign their position for allowing a right leaning Professor to get away with saying such things.

  3. #5 I think we all know by now that the level of genuine help you get from most customer service phone support conversations is roughly equal to the amount of support an arch support gives to help tennis elbow.

    For most companies, customer service has plunged into complete absurdity.

    I just recently contacted the customer service department of company asking a couple pre-purchase questions and the replies I got back were from a complete idiot that didn’t understand the questions posed and didn’t understand the product that the question were being asked about, it was completely absurd. It was so absurd that when someone else emailed me back to ask “How would you rate the support you received?” they got an earful. I usually ignore these kind of questions, but not this time.

    Part of the problem is that companies have resorted to hiring outside phone banks that have people that are all over the world providing customer service 24 hours a day and the people that answer the phone or online live chats don’t know a damn thing about the products they are supporting. These people are expected to enter questions into the computer and the computer spits out a list of answers and they are supposed to read the answers verbatim and never veere from their scripts. They don’t get much money for this phone support and they can easily loose their jobs going off script even with belligerent customers.

    The reply that Jack got “You should have called before your purchase and asked for an explanation, sir.” is absurd, the product packaging is supposed to give the consumer a decent enough description about the product to know that “this vacuum is not too powerful to be used on throw rugs”.

  4. Ruh roh! It’s déjà vu all over again; according to my lovely and long suffering wife our vacuum went kaput earlier today.

    Glass half full? We now know to steer clear of a certain model.

    Customer service? One of the companies I represent contracted their account servicing to an Indian firm and to say it’s a bad fucking joke would be sugarcoating.

    The couple of times I’ve had to rely on their…um…competence were disastrous, and if they’re that way for me (someone that knows how to navigate) how are they for regular customers?

    ~ three weeks ago I needed some forms forwarded and I was told they couldn’t be emailed and would have to be faxed. The good news was they’d escalate (read: blow smoke up yer…) it and it would be there within 48 hours.

    After 3 days, I called a regional office (which I should have done initially) and what I needed was emailed within 5 minutes.

    10 days later I get what should be a 10 page fax; it’s one page…a freakin’ cover sheet and nothing else.

    I don’t get it, your customers are your lifeblood. Poor (and I’m being charitable) customer service, customer relations really, has a LONG shelf life.

    After encountering it, most customers travel the route of least resistance; they just go elsewhere.

  5. #2: I love Wikileaks response and that was perfect. Do not attack someone less afraid of the truth than you are. My bet that Wikileaks will be removed without admitting this rebuttal hit home.

        • It’s a little early in the election cycle to talk about leading contenders. What’s really happening is people are talking about high profile names. Wait a year till people start forming exploratory committees and schmoozing the doner class.

          If you really want to know what to look for, purple state governors who win landslide reelections, senators who come out with books containing a vision for the country, anyone with a 5 million dollar campaign warchest that goes on a listening tour. Any Blue state governor that starts trying to troll the hell out of Trump on twitter. Those are the people to watch.

          • I would have to agree but between Obama and Trump, the least two qualified presidents ever, I think predicting political outcomes are now near impossible. Chief executives types, governors, generals and the like with political experience have been the mold, I believe Obama and Trump vaporized that mold and our fellow citizens haven’t yet settled on the new formula.

          • “If you really want to know what to look for, purple state governors who win landslide reelections, senators who come out with books containing a vision for the country, anyone with a 5 million dollar campaign warchest that goes on a listening tour. Any Blue state governor that starts trying to troll the hell out of Trump on twitter. Those are the people to watch.”

            I’m not sure the DNC follows that selection method.

  6. That lawsuit is 100% evil, but also kinda brilliant. Just by filing it…just by TALKING about filing it, they’re going to get months of free headlines that associate the word “Trump” with the words “Russia” and “conspiracy” in people’s minds, leading right up to, and probably far beyond, the midterm elections.

    Meanwhile, if the “collusion investigation” quietly folds, it can do so in the shadow of this new…thing. And I’m pretty sure you can keep delaying a frivolous lawsuit, dragging it out far longer than you can an expensive but groundless federal investigation. They can keep blowing smoke all over Trump for YEARS, convincing enough sheep that there must be a fire somewhere…

  7. Jack, one word for your vacuum blues: Miele. You can probably get one of their vacuums that are still made in Germany (ours is 18 years old) but their Chinese assembled ones seem to be just as good (ours is probably seven or eight). They also work great.

  8. This reminds me of Arnie ‘Terminator’ Schwarzenegger suing big oil over global warming ala’ how tobacco companies were. (Is that still a thing?)

    Discovery will kill the plaintiffs when they cannot bring innuendo and doctored science into the courtroom.

    • I wish I could trust more recent judicial appointees more, and still trust the judicial system enough to believe that “Discovery will kill the plaintiffs when they cannot bring innuendo and doctored science into the courtroom.”

      • There IS that, of course. You cannot account for corruption in any one judge, but the system is designed to correct abuses, if run as intended.

        Without that, we really ARE in anarchy and/or tyranny.

        I do not believe we have crossed that line as yet, but some of the court injunctions against the Trump Admin make me wonder.

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