Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/18: (Yes, #4 Should Be A Free-Standing Post, But I’m In A Hurry…)

Good Morning!

I love “Onward Christian Soldiers,” of course, but this is my favorite Arthur Sullivan-composed hymn…

1. Reminding me of the basic unethical and cynical nature of state lotteries...A middle-aged African American woman sits outside of our local 7-11 pretty much all day, seven days a week. I’ve written about her before, most recently when she let the door slam in my face despite our family occasionally giving her food, cigarettes and a ten-dollar bill now and then. This morning she bought 40 dollars worth of lottery tickets.

And if she hit the jackpot, she’d be back sitting out front and begging for money in a year or less.

2. My Facebook. theory. You noticed, I’m sure, that Facebook took a 100 billion dollar hit to its paper value in less than 48 hours last week. It all could have been avoided by honesty, transparency, humility, avoidance of virtue-signaling, and fealty to free speech.

  • Users should have been told, in automatic emails and in big, bold letters in disclaimers on the site, since too many of them are too dumb to figure it out, that anything they put on the free platform was fair game to be harvested, sliced, diced, used, sold, analyzed and exploited for any legal purpose, by any group, party, nation or organization, and if potential users didn’t like the terms, nobody was making them post.
  • Facebook should have avoided pretenses of virtue. It provides a useful means of networking and communication as well as cost-free mini-blogs to people unwilling to maintain real ones. It does so to make money, not to make a better world…especially since social media arguably makes a worse one.
  • It should have denied responsibility, in court if necessary, for “fake news” regardless of who created it. Any ad or “sponsored story” should have been so labelled, with Facebook’s position being “read and believe at your own risk. Check “facts” before you spread them around. It’s your responsibility, not ours.”
  • Facebook should have had faith and belief in the freedom of expression and speech, and not attempted to censor “hate speech” or “fake news,” neither of which are subject to precise identification and analysis without the corrupting influence of bias. Indeed, Facebook was obligated to support the First Amendment, as a major cultural force.
  • Facebook should have stayed apolitical. Instead, it joined the “resistance” freakout over Hillary Clinton’s loss, and signaled its virtue by agreeing with absurd and unsupported claims regarding the importance of fake and risible news stories on Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

Mark Zuckerberg is a classic example of a narrow, limited, juvenile savant whose one big idea gave him more power and influence than he was qualified to handle. Maybe losing all of that money will make him appropriately humble, but I doubt it. Such people almost never learn.

3. Is the U.S. State Department intentionally hassling trans women? This story makes a prima facie case that it is, and if that’s really what is going on, it is petty and wrong. It also is a classic Rashomon situation.  Government bureaucracies are inherently inefficient, incompetent, and screwed up beyond all reason or toleration. (Oddly, progressives want more such agencies, with more employees. Go figure.) The story linked appears to show the system trying to make things difficult for a particular group, but the individual targeted only sees how she is being treated, so it appears like obvious discrimination. That, however, is a very subjective assessment.

A member of my family is in jail for a few months, and had been granted work-release privileges so he could continue his job and career. However, those in charge of the program were openly hostile to his efforts to complete the paperwork and arrangements. They kept changing the rules, increasing requirements, threatening him, and delaying the process. When he contacted his lawyer, he was told, “these people can do anything they want to, and get their satisfaction from boring, low-paying jobs by abusing people like you, meaning anyone who would normally be their equals or better, but who is now under their thumbs. You have no choice. Do what they want, or you will suffer. Simple as that.”

My jailed family member is white, male, educated, well-spoken and polite. Eventually, after he grovelled enough, everything was straightened out. “You know,” he said ,”It I were black, there is no way you could have convinced me that I wasn’t the victim of racism.”

It could be the same with the alleged trans discrimination in the passport system. When one of the alleged victims says, “Make no mistake, this was an intentional action by the State Department to withhold recognizing my gender,” she is being sincere and perhaps naive. It may have been an intentional action by low level State Department employees to be assholes because they could be. [Pointer: valkgrrl]

4. I never should have clicked on that link…The post was “5 Reasons Hillary Clinton Was the Worst Presidential Nominee in History,” and I couldn’t resist. I long ago concluded that Hillary was the worst Presidential candidate of a major party ever (Donald Trump would be second, about ten laps in front of whoever is third), and I couldn’t restrain my curiosity regarding whether the author’s reasons were the same as mine.

They weren’t. His number #1 reason is that Hillary was “unlikable,” but as Obama memorably said in a 2007 debate, she was “likable enough.” The key is whether a candidate can be more likable than his or her opponent. Donald Trump is at least as unlikable as Hillary was, especially during the campaign. She wasn’t any more unlikable than Al Gore, Bob Dole, Mike Dukakis, Dick Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Adlai Stevenson, and others.

His #2 reason was Hillary’s apparent bad health. She was far, far from the most unhealthy-seeming Presidential candidate: FDR was on death’s door in 1944, and anyone with open eyes could see it.

#3 is that she was “unaccomplished.” She was, in fact, light in relevant accomplishments and experience, but the average voter doesn’t know or care what relevant accomplishments and experience are, or the public would have never elected Obama, Abe Lincoln, or for that matter, Trump. “Accomplishments” a great candidate does not make.

#4 on the list is “the email scandal.” The email scandal wasn’t what was wrong with Hillary’s run: her refusal to acknowledge it, admit it, and stop lying about it was. Lots of Presidential candidates have had to deal with scandals, and while the email fiasco was a serious one, most of the public didn’t understand it.

The episode does relate to one of the actual reasons she was a terrible candidate, however: she refused to accept accountability for anything, lied when she didn’t need to, and unlike her husband, was bad at it. The fifth reason listed is “baggage.” Well, most candidates have baggage. We have elected many President who had more baggage than their opponents. Hillary had less.

My list of the seven reasons why Hillary was the worst Presidential candidate ever:

1. She didn’t campaign hard, didn’t seem like she thought she had to, and acted like the job was owed to her.

2. She deliberately appealed to group prejudice as a reason to elect her, and blamed the opposite group prejudice on the fact that many people didn’t want to see her President.

3. She directly impugned and insulted a large portion of the electorate during the campaign.

4. She cheated to get the nomination.

5. She failed the Trailblazer Principle, and miserably. Trailblazers have an ethical duty to be, not just good, but exceptional, virtuously without flaw. If they aren’t, they harm the group they are blazing the trail for. This is the lesson of Jackie Robinson’s career. Hillary was the first woman to be a major party’s nominee, and not only was incompetent, she lost in the biggest upset since Truman beat Dewey. She harmed the prospects of women and the image of women as capable politicians.

(Obama also flunked the Trailblazer Principle.”)

6. Once she lost, she did not follow the tradition of  accepting defeat and beginning the next President’s term with a show of support and acceptance. Instead, she deliberately worked to undermine the winner of the election and question the legitimacy of the result, to the detriment of the nation.

7. Hillary Clinton has been, by far, the worst loser in American Presidential history, and thus the worst role model and the pettiest, least gracious,nominee that ever was. (This item also magnifies #5 and #6.)

26 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/18: (Yes, #4 Should Be A Free-Standing Post, But I’m In A Hurry…)

  1. #1- The legend continues!

    Reminds me of my effort over 30 years ago to help a prospective client establish a very modest ($25/month) saving program.

    She: “We just can’t afford it.”

    Me: (observing 5 scratch-off tickets on the kitchen table) “How often do you buy those?”

    She: (big smile crossing her face) “We (hubby & three kids) each get one per week.”

    Me: “There’s your $25 a month.”

    She: (smile gone) “I told you, we just can’t afford it.”

    Me: (point made/no sale) “Let me know if you ever have any questions.”

  2. 4. Specifically as to the worst “nominee,” Clinton was a terrible choice by the Democrats because so many people had already made a firm decision against her. My memory extends so I remember Nixon in 1968 but not in 1960, but of subsequent candidates I don’t know of anyone who had no chance of earning the votes of nearly as many voters as she did.

  3. #4. I suspect her treatment of women was a factor too. From Juanita Broaddrick to so-called “deplorables” Mrs. Clinton proved she can be just as misogynist as any man.

  4. these people can do anything they want to, and get their satisfaction from boring, low-paying jobs by abusing people like you, meaning anyone who would normally be their equals or better, but who is now under their thumbs.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: The Transportation Security Administration.

      • “You won’t have me to kick around any more.”

        Call it unpresidential and scold me for thinking so, but I have to say it’s kind of enjoyable to see a president who kicks back harder than the press kicks.

  5. By not writing # 4 as its own post, do you lower the hit score in search engines that look at the upper parts of the posts to determine returns for content search? Make keyword meta-searches less productive?

    Sneaky way to have your cake and eat it too, if so (I don’t know that these search techniques are still valid: just know they used to be).

    Well done, Jack /snark

  6. Regarding 3.

    The State Department has denied that there has been any change to rules and regulations. Each of the 3 cases they have looked at have involved unusual situations where discretion was misapplied, or plain ordinary bureaucratic mistakes where made. They’re working on correcting the problems.

    There are now 10 similar cases we know of.

    My own appreciation of the situation is that it’s not a top down policy, it’s just some assholery at the lower levels. But not just a few isolated and unrepresentative examples either. There is a pattern. This appreciation is subject to change as new evidence comes in.

    In one case, a rejected application was resubmitted unchanged, and was accepted.

    The situation is still being monitored, but having an official State Department statement that there has been no unannounced official change to policy has assuaged many fears.

  7. Meanwhile in Michigan, and a story that appeared in several old posts on this site;

    A Michigan appeals court has ruled that transgender women are not women and that a former Planet Fitness customer has a legal case against the chain of gyms.

    The case dates back to 2015 when Yvette Cormier saw a transgender woman — whom she described as a “man” — in the women’s locker room of her Midland, Michigan Planet Fitness. She complained to management and warned other customers, which prompted the gym to cancel her membership for “inappropriate and disruptive” behavior. Cormier sued Planet Fitness for over $25,000 in damages, alleging that she suffered a violation of privacy, as well as embarrassment, humiliation, severe emotional distress, and damage to her reputation.

    A Michigan lower court ruled against her and last year, a state court of appeals agreed that she suffered no intrusion of privacy.

    But in April, the Michigan Supreme Court revived the case and sent it back to the appellate court to examine a legal question it hadn’t initially considered. And this time, the panel found that Planet Fitness violated its own contract with Cormier…

    Cormier alleged that Planet Fitness misrepresented the nature of its contract when it said that she would have access to a private women’s locker room but did not disclose that so, too, would “men who self-identity as women.” (The court conspicuously refuses to use the word “transgender” and repeatedly refers to transgender women with this phrase.) This inclusive policy would have affected her decision to purchase a membership and thus is relevant to her claim that Planet Fitness engaged in deceptive business practices.

    “Plaintiff’s actions indicate that she strongly preferred a locker room and a restroom in which individuals who are assigned biologically male are not present,” the court wrote, “and it is thus reasonable to infer that defendants’ failure to inform plaintiff of the unwritten policy affected her decision to join the gym.”

    In other words, the court agreed with Cormier’s perspective that transgender women are not women and that she never should have been expected to understand that a locker room for women would include transgender women. By not disclosing that it was taking the opposite position — respecting transgender people according to their gender identity — Planet Fitness was “failing to reveal a material fact” in an attempt to “mislead or deceive the consumer,” as the relevant Michigan law reads.

    The decision again tosses the case back to the lower court for further examination. Cormier’s lawyer hopes to win the case there without a trial…

      • The appeal ruling is at

        It addresses this long as follows;

        Finally, plaintiff submits that the trial court erred in granting summary disposition to defendants’ on her claim brought under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). We disagree. The MCPA “prohibits the use of unfair, unconscionable, or deceptive methods, acts, or practices in the conduct of trade or commerce.” Zine v Chrysler Corp, 236 Mich App 261, 270271; 600 NW2d 384 (1999), citing MCL 445.903(1). “Trade or commerce” is defined as the conduct of a business providing goods, property, or service primarily for personal, family, or household purposes and includes the advertising, solicitation, offering for sale or rent, sale, lease, or distribution of a service or property, tangible or intangible, real, personal, or mixed, or any other article, or a business opportunity. [MCL 445.902(1)(g).]

        A person who suffers loss as a result of a violation of the MCPA “may bring an action to recover actual damages or $250.00, whichever is greater, together with reasonable attorneys’ fees.” MCL 445.911(2). “The MCPA is in many ways derivative of the common-law tort of fraud.” Brownlow v McCall Enterprises, Inc, 315 Mich App 103, 123; 888 NW2d 295 (2016). However, the MCPA eliminates an essential element of the common-law tort of fraud, i.e., proof of the intent of the merchant in most of the subsections. Id. “When the Legislature intended to require a plaintiff to prove the defendant’s intent, it specifically so provided in the statute.” Id. at 125. And, while a common law fraud claim based on misrepresentation requires that the plaintiff show reasonable reliance on misrepresentation, only two of the MCPA’s thirty-three “unfair, unconscionable, or deceptive methods, acts or practices” expressly require some form of reasonable reliance by the consumer. See MCL. § 445.903(1)(s) (“which fact could not be reasonably known by the consumer”) and (bb) (“a person reasonably believes”). Plaintiff alleged that defendants represented that there were separate locker rooms, shower and restroom facilities for men and women and in having an unwritten policy allowing men who self-identify as women to use the women’s facilities defendants violated MCL 445.903(1)(g), (n),2 (s), (t), (y), (bb), and (cc) of the MCPA. That statute provides, in relevant part

        (1) Unfair, unconscionable, or deceptive methods, acts, or practices in the conduct of trade or commerce are unlawful and are defined as follows: * * * (g) Advertising or representing goods or services with intent not to dispose of those goods or services as advertised or represented. * * * (n) Causing a probability of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the legal rights, obligations, or remedies of a party to a transaction. * * * (s) Failing to reveal a material fact, the omission of which tends to mislead or deceive the consumer, and which fact could not reasonably be known by the consumer (t) Entering into a consumer transaction in which the consumer waives or purports to waive a right, benefit, or immunity provided by law, unless the waiver is clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it. * * * (y) Gross discrepancies between the oral representations of the seller and the written agreement covering the same transaction or failure of the other party to the transaction to provide the promised benefits. * * * (bb) Making a representation of fact or statement of fact material to the transaction such that a person reasonably believes the represented or suggested state of affairs to be other than it actually is. (cc) Failing to reveal facts that are material to the transaction in light of representations of fact made in a positive manner

        In her appeal brief, plaintiff does not cite to any particular subsection of the MCPA buts simply states that a policy allowing men full access to the women’s facilities is a material fact that should have been disclosed and that she correctly pled how defendants violated each subsection of the MCPA by either misrepresenting the facts or omitting them entirely. Plaintiff cites to no authority or statute, or even her complaint, in support of her position. It is not sufficient for a party “simply to announce a position or assert an error and then leave it up to this Court to discover and rationalize the basis for his claims, or unravel and elaborate for him his arguments, and then search for authority either to sustain or reject his position.” Wilson v Taylor, 457 Mich 232, 243; 577 NW2d 100 (1998), quoting Mitcham v Detroit, 355 Mich 182, 203; 94 NW2d 388 (1959). We consider this claim abandoned on appeal and do not consider it. We also do not consider her claim of error regarding exemplary damages, given our conclusion that all of her claims were properly dismissed.

        The error found by the higher court is confined to the section in bold. The rest of the ruling stands.

  8. I don’t claim to have put on a robe and a pointy hat and recited Latin before a wall-size magic mirror, but I wrote the following two days after Trump’s inauguration.

    “This is just the final widening of the crack between right and left that started with the end of the Cold War into a full on Biblical great gulf like the one that separates Lazarus in Heaven from the rich man who ignored him in Hell. In the short term trading on division can bring political rewards, as all of these sectors came together on one thing: hatred of all things Republican and all things connected with GWB. In the long term it brought disaster as those hated united and turned on them. Now they are out of power, out of ideas, and out of luck…for the moment. Donald Trump’s victory did give these sectors ONE thing they need: a target to focus on. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell can disappear into their caucuses, and governors are usually no bigger than their states. However, NOW they can agree to focus on one goal and one goal alone – destroy President Trump. It’s easier than you think, especially when you still control Hollywood and all but one of the major networks.

    Every mistake he makes, make sure it leads the evening news and stays longer than it should. Everything he says that could be made to make him look bad, edit a clip to show only that soundbite and run it again and again, including getting it out there to share and retweet. Every questionable thing that emerges, no matter how long ago or how benign, turn it into a major scandal. Even if it’s a non-issue, like the Valerie Plame affair, turn it into the stubborn boil that never heals or the obnoxious party guest who just won’t leave. Even if it turns out to be unfounded, imply that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, it just means that someone lied, or someone got to someone, or someone covered his tracks too well.

    In the meantime minimize his successes as they come. The economy starts to get off the ground again? It was already on its way there and he just rode the wave. ISIS is finally defeated? They were a house of cards that was ready to come down anyway. Better yet, attack his successes. Securing the border? Stopping the rising violence against the police? Raaaaacist! Make sure you keep that mantra going too – he’s a racist, he’s a hater, he’s a xenophobe, he’s a proto-fascist, he’s a sexist pig. Say it loud enough, confidently enough, and often enough, and people will start to believe it. Keep up the unfavorable comparisons with Obama too, how he was more popular, more loved, etc etc.

    That’s just the role of the media. In the meantime, Hollywood needs to load up the theaters with endless movies about scrappy reporters, boy scout-like middle management guys and noble community activists who shout truth to power and bring down dangerous demagogues by whistleblowing or uncovering nefarious doings, then staying just one step ahead of the corrupt cops or military-intelligence-industrial axis. Throw in a few pseudohistorical productions about escapes from oppression, minority achievements, etc., and a few empowering princess cartoons for the girls. Those in the music end of things, put some clever anti-Trump insults or slogans to catchy tunes and make sure they get a lot of play.

    The role of those not in the media or the entertainment industry – clog both the streets and the internet with endless protests and blogs, so that Joe Average can’t ignore you. Every address or public hearing, be there in force. Every public speech by anyone from the GOP, be there in force. Try to have enough of you to split into two groups, one to create a diversion and tie up security, and a second one to make your point after the first has done their job. Every parade, airshow, fleet week, anything that showcases the military or high officials, be there too, with legal observers (try the National Lawyers’ Guild) to wave signs, chant, and generally make a nuisance of yourself. Nothing sells like peaceful people getting pushed around.”

    It gives me absolutely no comfort to know that pretty much everything I wrote there has come true and is starting to go a step farther.

    • What they did not count on was that common Americans are paying too close attention, such that the slurs and innuendos backfire. Americans believe in fair play. Progressives believe the ends justify the means.

  9. More detail on 3

    Rewire.News spoke with more than a dozen trans people who have run into issues with obtaining or renewing U.S. passports over the past two months, revealing that the truth may be more complex than random administrative mistakes.

    Marcus, a trans man who asked to use a pseudonym for fear of retaliation, had his passport revoked last week after applying for passports for his twin children. “I got a letter from the State Department telling me that my passport was being retroactively revoked because I did not have all of the required documentation,” he told Rewire.News over text.

    Marcus was born intersex and had a procedure to “normalize” his body when he was 11 days old before transitioning to male as an adult. After holding a valid passport with his new gender marker for four years, the State Department revoked it and demanded documentation for the surgery performed on him as a newborn to prove his assigned gender. Such documentation, he says, does not exist. “The hospital that performed this surgery does not keep pediatric records past the age of 28,” he said.

    Marcus has also run into issues acquiring passports for his children because he is a queer parent, as the State Department has asked him for complete documentation both of his gender, and legal parentage of his children. “They asked for certified copies of my birth certificate, Social Security card, gender, and name change court documents, their birth certificates, and an additional notarized statement of consent from my wife.” Because Marcus and his wife had their children through in vitro fertilization, Marcus’s wife is the only parent who can consent to their children leaving the United States. It’s a common issue for queer parents. “They originally asked for an adoption decree as well but obviously we don’t have that because there was no adoption.”

    The process has exasperated Marcus, who feels that he’s being unfairly singled out by bureaucratic excess. “Like, what’s next? We have to track down our sperm donor and get their permission for my kids to have a passport?”

    Rose had applied for a gender-marker change months ago and was issued a new passport that correctly listed her as female, but with her birth name. She recently had her name legally changed and applied for an amended passport to reflect her new name, at which point the State Department revoked her previously issued passport and demanded a new doctor’s note for the previously approved gender-marker change.

    Rose provided Rewire.News with the doctor’s note she submitted when she originally attempted to change her gender marker. The letter contains the information and certifications demanded by State Department guidelines. But because Rose receives transition care at a clinic, the letter is signed by both the nurse practitioner, who sees her personally, as well as the attending doctor who oversees the clinic. For this reason, Rose said, her passport was revoked pending a new letter signed only by the doctor.

  10. Though State Department officials declined to comment on individual cases to Rewire.News, they pointed to State Department guidelines for revoking passports, which includes the following: “The passport was illegally, fraudulently or erroneously obtained from the Department; or was created through illegality or fraud practiced upon the Department.”

    And these recent concerns within the trans community are valid, given that newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ties to the anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council, which first released a report titled “Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement” in 2015. Among the group’s stated goals was a call for eliminating the ability for trans people to change their genders on official government ID. “Ideally, the law would forbid government recognition in any way (whether on birth certificates, driver’s licenses, passports, or any other government-issued identification) of any change in an individual’s biological sex as identified at birth,” reads the report

    VP Pence has even stronger ties with the FRC.

    On the other hand…

    “I’ve [recently] had to help at least two trans woman and one trans guy resubmit their application two or more times. Each time the form was rejected for the tiniest reasons that are ignored on other applications,” said a passport acceptance agent at a U.S. Post Office, who spoke to Rewire.News on the condition of anonymity. “From what I understand from the people who are having problems, it’s only a few people at the processing centers making it difficult. So if you get one of the bad ones, you end up with a lot of problems.”

    In other words, business as usual. Whether it should be accepted as usual is another matter.

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