Monday Morning Warm-Up, 5/4/2020: Six Reasons To Be Cynical [Corrected]

“May The Forthe be with you!”

As Daffy Duck would thay…

1. Following a familiar unethical pattern...Eva Murry’s allegation about Joe Biden making a remark about her breasts at a political even when  she was 14 seems to have been decisively debunked. Biden’s schedule shows he didn’t attend the event, and the chair at the time confirms he wasn’t there.

What would possess someone like Murry to be so vocal and self-righteous about something that didn’t happen? As with the Kavanaugh mess, subsequent fake stories undermine the main one. Even though they have nothing to do with each other, Murry’s fiction, if Biden really didn’t attend the event, increases cynicism about Tara Reade’s account.

2. What a surprise…Harvard’s dedication to feminism stops at the bank vault. Harvard, while it was violating the constitutional rights of male students by punishing them if they belonged to men-only clubs off-campus, was also giving aid and comfort to convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. The regime of first female Harvard President Drew Faust was full of dubious and virtue-signaling measures to ensure the esteemed university was sufficiently woke, including discriminating against one ethnic group (Asian-Americans) to elevate another ethnic group (African-Americans). Yet when it came to its attitude toward an infamous sexual predator, what mattered to Faust and Friends was, you guessed it, money.

Epstein, who was provided his own office at the school following his 2008 sweetheart plea deal that incredibly allowed him a quick release from prison to continue his <cough!> hobby, visited the campus more than 40 times between 2010 and 2018 often accompanied by young women who acted as his assistants, according to a report on the Harvard-Epstein alliance released last week. Apparently Epstein’s primary value to Harvard was connecting academics and scholars with financiers, VIPs and other sources of contributions, including Wall Street wheeler-dealer Leon Black, the founder and chief executive officer of Apollo Global Management Inc., one of the world’s largest private equity funds. Epstein also provided access to his pal Bill Clinton and retail billionaire Leslie Wexner.

3.  Proposition: it is unethical for companies to hire public contact employees who cannot speak clear, understandable English. I just listened to my poor wife have to repeatedly ask an ATT representative to spell out his sentences because his accent made him otherwise incomprehensible. Being competent at communicating with Americans must be a job requirement, and making it so is not xenophobic or discriminatory. It is essential, and basic respect for customers. My wife’s hearing is fine. I have had the same experience she just had, many times. There is no excuse for it.

4. Of course. Thousands of foreign workers, including many living overseas, are receiving stimulus checks designated for U.S. residents due to an “unforeseen glitch” that funneled taxpayer dollars to other countries, according to tax consultants and the recipients themselves.  This kind of thing isn’t an exception, and “kind of thing” means “the government screws up a basic job to an outrageous extent.”

Any adult of reasonable intelligence realizes this after a minimal period of autonomy in his or her life. Yes, it would be just wonderful if governments were reliable, competent and trustworthy enough to justify giving them ever-expanding control over our lives. But they aren’t, they never have been, and they are never going to be. If you want to understand one reason this is true, re-watch “Jurassic Park.” It’s basic chaos theory: the bigger and more complicated a system gets, like a government, the more certain it is to break down. Then there is the fact—these aren’t ideological assertions but undeniable observations–that a critical number of government employees, including elected officials, are neither competent, virtuous, or smart. To be convinced of that, listen to a debate over literally anything in a state legislature. Finally, accept the fact that most “public servants”—not all, but enough to cripple the system—are in government not to serve the public but to benefit themselves, their families, their egos, or their bank accounts.

Our government can’t even be trusted to handle the core responsibilities that governments have to perform— maintaining infrastructure, public education, law enforcement, courts, collecting taxes, national defense, ensuring the safety of food, products, drugs and the workplace, upholding the Bill of Rights—yet we keep hearing impassioned demands that we should give governments even more control over our lives. Are these people lying, or not paying attention? I suppose Hanlon’s Razor applies.

5. Corporations are no more trustworthy than governments…as with Disney. I wonder when it was that Walt’s fantasy company became a voracious monster? Disney, which owns the “Star Wars” franchise, tried a take-over of this DATE, for heaven’s sake, or at least the bad pun associated with it. The company’s streaming service, Disney Plus, urged fans to share their favorite “Star Wars” memories while using the hashtag #MayThe4th today.  The hashtag riff on the iconic phrase, “May the force be with you,” has been used for years to honor the fake “Star Wars” holiday, but Disney tried to co-opt it with the tweet, “Reply with your favorite #Star Wars memory and you may see it somewhere special #MayThe4th,” the company said in a tweet. “By sharing your message with us during #MayThe4th, you agree to our use of the message and your account name in all media and our terms of use.”


6. Now THIS is corruption. Of course, the tweet is also from Gloria Allred’s ethics-challenged lawyer daughter, but still…

[I stupidly forgot to post this tweet originally in my nausea. I apologize to all. ]

I got a similar sentiment from a previously intelligent Facebook friend. Principles that are shed like a snake’s skin when it is expedient are not principles at all. This is a neon-bright endorsement of “the ends justify the means,” and Trump Derangement.

58 thoughts on “Monday Morning Warm-Up, 5/4/2020: Six Reasons To Be Cynical [Corrected]

  1. 5. The larger an organization becomes, the more bureaucratic it becomes. Eventually the decisions a large bureaucratic organization makes become distant and disconnected from its original purpose, usually serving customers, clients, or citizens. As a result the decision making process becomes more and more about serving the organization and less and less about serving its originally intended purpose.

    Call it the law of diminishing intended returns for organizations.

    In the end a bureaucracy, private, non-profit, or public, serves itself, often to the detriment of its intended beneficiaries.

  2. 6. You seem to have omitted the tweet in question. Heading over to Lisa Bloom’s Twitter to archive whichever it was, I was left at a loss: it could seemingly apply to most of her recent content. Have the whole page, then.

    • It’s up. Thanks. I clearly don’t multi-process as well as I used to (eating breakfast, talking to my wife, watching the news, and finishing a post). I simply forgot to put it in.

  3. 4. I wonder how many of them had social security numbers…

    Anyway, you know the argument of those who want more government control, “The Democrats will do it better!”

    5. As a life-long “Star Wars” fan, I hate the ridiculous “May the Fourth Be With You” phrase. Besides co-opting the favored phrase of the good guys, they only chose the fourth so that they could make a terrible pun out of it. No “Star Wars” film has ever been released on the fourth of May or any other month.

    The date is pointless.

  4. 4)To some degree I have to disagree with the contention that it’s the government’s fault they issued stimulus payments to foreign workers. These people told the IRS that they were U.S. residents as far as taxes are concerned — why shouldn’t the IRS send them a stimulus check just like everyone else?

    The Politico story has several problems, likely due to inadequate research. The one that was most jarring was the assertion that “nonimmigrant workers’ Social Security numbers have the same number of digits as those of U.S. citizens”. They have the same number of digits because they are Social Security numbers. Sheesh. If you want to distinguish them, then Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs) also have the same number of digits – 9 digits – but ITINs always start with a ‘9’, i.e. 987-55-1212. SSNs always start with the digits 0-8.

    However, students and teachers who are here on student and teacher visas are routinely given SSNs because they have jobs connected with their visa purpose such as, oh, teaching, or research. The underlying problem is that they use these SSNs to file tax returns as if they were resident aliens — and the IRS rarely catches them. It _does_ make a difference in the taxes they pay. Non-resident aliens may not use the standard deduction ($12k now), and may not file joint returns if married, nor claim their children as dependents.

    The IRS and ICE seem to have little communication (now there’s a surprise!) nor a way to catch these mistakes. I’d say that filing an incorrect tax return is a reason to have your visa revoked — well, if it could be shown it was done on purpose and not out of ignorance. The $1200 stimulus payment is probably no more or less than what they don’t pay in U.S. taxes every year.

    Honestly, I don’t think most of these students/teachers are doing this on purpose, they’ve been given bad advice. The ones I deal with are very earnest in wanting to file correctly — if for no other reason than not to violate their visa requirements. This area of tax law is complex — I have a 120 page publication I keep on my desk, not to mention the dozens of tax treaties the U.S. has negotiated.

    Good luck to these people in getting anything straightened out before 2021. The IRS is not answering its phones, they have turned off their fax machines, and they’re not even opening their mail, which I understand is piling up in trailers outside their processing centers.

  5. 6–Right up there with what a career Lefty no less than the talented Leonard Pitts, who has deemed Reade an appropriate sacrifice:

    (bolds/italics/caps mine throughout)
    “Small wonder many of us consider Trump’s re-election incompatible with national survival.

    “If Reade were sacrificed to the cause of preventing that, IT WOULD BE PAINFUL AND UNFAIR, YET ARGUABLY DEFENSIBLE. Because IF THERE ARE TWO EVILS HERE, Biden is much the lesser.

    But let us at least admit, if only in the silence of individual conscience, that this is the calculation we’ve made, the terrible choice forced on us by the exigencies of a fraught moment. We live now in paradox and emergency where, heaven help us, principle (and ethics) may have become a luxury too costly to afford.

    In a nutshell; if it takes one life, let it be Tara Reade’s.

    How many EA rationalizations may we put Pitts down for?

    • That guy’s incredible. I’m surprised he didn’t throw in a climate crisis bit as well. What a reliable shit stirrer. Can you imagine all the bobbing heads and barking seals. Right on, brother!.

  6. 1) Would there be an incentive for pro-Biden types to start throwing out all this “chaff” in the form of easily debunkable false accusations with the intent to undermine the central highly-believable one?

    • You don’t see the problem with a big corporation seeking to grab as property something that is already in teh public domain, and its lawyers preparing deceptive waiver to trick people into acceding to it?

      • Star Wars, while a product, is not longer really and fully a product. It’s become an interactive community. And it’s members love interacting with that community. I don’t see a problem with Disney asking its fans to promote their own community. Part of that promotion of course is Disney publishing their twitter comments in other locations.

        I see the waiver as Disney making sure some bad faith jerks somewhere don’t try to ruin the fun for everyone in the larger Star Wars community if they come back and claim Disney is using something from the fans for profit without permission.

                  • No they are not.

                    They are claiming domain over any tweets that use the hashtag that are also replies to the original tweet.

                    That addition matters. And Disney’s tweets SAID ALL OF THIS (they are linked below).

                    If you respond to the original tweet WITH the hashtag, you are consenting to have that tweet considered for publication on some other Disney whatever.

                    Easy ways to not have your tweet used?

                    Don’t respond.

                    Or respond without the hashtag.

                    Use the hashtag anywhere you feel like it other than the original Disney tweet opening this event.

                    • But copyright develops with use. It’s a trap, essentially, and as the Slate piece suggests, not one likely to prevail. Disney has no right to say that if you use the hashtag, you need to sign a waiver. That’s a misleading requirement, and they know it. I may even use it in an ethics seminar. It is lawyers playing games with non-lawyers. “Use the hashtag anywhere you feel like it other than the original Disney tweet opening this event” ? No! Disney can’t claim that level of control

                    • I mean, if we don’t want to have any sort of interactivity that builds community, especially the kind of participation that particular community likes, then plant a flag on that extreme pole.

                      Again, Disney never said anything about the use of the hashtag on it’s own and I think that’s a bad faith argument to say so.

                      Disney needed an easy way to identify people who wanted to participate. They found a very easy way that harms literally no one who doesn’t want to participate nor empowers Disney to harm them in the future. I really don’t understand THAT argument.

                    • “By sharing your message with us using #MayThe4th, you agree to our use of the message and your account name in all media and our terms of use here:…”

                      Nope, can’t do that, because it falsely suggests that the hashtag’s use is controllable by Disney. If it said, “by using the word “the” in your tweet, you agree to our use of the message and your account name in all media and our terms of use here:…” the proper response would be “Like hell it does!”

                    • Well, as long as you’ll insist that Disney made a blanket claim on the hashtag’s use in isolation of other qualification when they clearly did not and also insist that Disney made a blanket claim on any tweet across the twitterverse when they clearly did not, I’m not sure I’ve got anything else to add.

                      The three tweets comprising Disney’s attempt to involve its fans in the larger community are posted and pretty clear.

                    • As to the first, I was careless to imply that, but their demand could only be legally defended if that were the case. On the second, I definitely don’t maintain that. But demanding a waiver of rights that nobody should demand and that nobody should agree to, AND that wouldn’t be enforceable anyway is oppressive.

                  • I think the Slate article is rationalization laden. It’s key argument that “twitter practices” have essentially determined that anything on twitter falls under “fair use” (an exception to copyright law) is fundamentally flawed. It presumes that we even have a coherent notion of ethical twitter practices. Twitter took the internet by storm, and as with most modern technology, it’s hitting us faster than we can develop ethical rules to govern its use. I don’t think there’s a proven ethic for twitter…there is anarchy.

                    Slate relies alot on “this is the way its always been” and “everybody does it”.

                    I think there’s clearly an aspect of manners here and proportionality. Based on “fair use”, which interestingly enough, would allow Disney to do whatever the hell it pleases with whatever tweets it finds. Based on the Slate argument, and I guess the argument here, would be that Disney was actually limiting itself from what I guess is an apparently already acceptable practice.

                    But I just don’t think so. I think a lot of chaos has allowed basically unethical practices to abound, and instead of pursuing a clearer more ethical set of protocols, you’re shrugging.

                    Disney is setting a great precedent here for a mannerly treatment of other people’s speech.

                    I don’t think the argument that people quote others tweets (which inevitably become attributed quotes automatically) in journalistic endeavors is analogous to another company’s use of tweets in a business effort.

                    If we’re at a baseball game, and I quietly mention to my friend that I think the pitcher is cheating on his wife, but I wasn’t quiet enough and the person next to me overhears and then yells out as loud as possible *MY CONVERSATION* that was being reasonably kept between me and my friend. They are unethical.

                    If we’re at the same baseball game, and a couple in front of us see the big screen TV clearly announce the “kiss cam” is on and roving the audience…when they kiss they are *consenting* to the stadium using their action for publicity.

              • I mean, if you created a post that indicated all responses to that particular post would be considered for use in an upcoming book as long as each response contained some signature line as an indicator of consent….

                People responding with that signature line to that particular post are giving consent.

        • I see your point, but if they want to solicit fan stories and opinions they should open a comment box on one of their own websites, not trawl social media and claim they have the right to reprint what they find for their own profit.

          • I’m not sure Disney laid claim to anything they found. Their tweet indicates that if you want to have your comment considered for publication to respond to that specific thread using the hashtag.

            I mean, when I was a kid, I had child oriented magazines that were always offering kids to submit their drawings and artwork for consideration to be published in the next issue.

            Not unethical and quite analogous.

              • Disney clearly indicated they would only consider using people’s responses to their opening tweet.

                That is, only people who are willingly participating in Disney’s community “event” or whatever it is.

                • Oh, I see. I think I misunderstood the nature of how they were gathering responses. You have to not only use the hashtag, but respond to Disney’s tweet in order for your message to be used. Is that right? That seems completely fair to me. I have no objections to that on any level.

                  • From the link above: “So why did Disney find a contract necessary at all? Everyone uses tweets without worrying about permission: People retweet one another, journalists embed tweets in their stories, Jimmy Kimmel has celebrities read mean tweets on broadcast television, Jimmy Fallon calls on followers to #QuarantineAMovie—no Twitter contract in sight. Even though tweets are often protected by copyright, the usual expectation is that quoting tweets in these ways qualifies as “fair use,” an exception to copyright law that allows for using copyrighted material for purposes like news reporting, education, and parody….Making sure that the online environment encourages the diversity of modern creativity requires updating copyright law to fit this digital age, and a good first step would be to escape the mentality that every tweet requires a contract.”

      • Oh I dunno. Last week, my long-suffering wife (she’s married to me, you know . . .) and I watched a news story on the local news media celebrating that Google and Apple will now have COVID-19 exposure tracking app we can download and use. They promised us – PROMISED – that they would not use the information for other purposes (such as marketing or personal tracking), or that they will turn it over to the government, and that the information is safe, secure, and will never be compromised. I believe them. I really do. Yes.


    • Because TRUMP!

      Actually, I think “Because TRUMP!”* should be a rationalization all its own.
      *I HATE that use of “because” without a following “of.” It’s about as correct and edifying as “stay safe” or “fly safe” or “not so much.” My college, which still purports to pride itself on emphasizing cogent written communication, has named its current fundraising campaign “Because [the name of the college]. Ugh.

  7. Here is another reason to be cynical.

    Majority rule! Majority of Americans prefer to heed non-political scientists and doctors recommendations! Your rights do NOT supersede the majority.

    (emphasis added)

    Where have I heard that before?

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