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”.
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.”
“WHY WOULD I CALL WHEN YOUR DESCRIPTION LED ME TO BELIEVE SOMETHING THAT WASN’T TRUE?” I said, with obvious annoyance.
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…