Hello, my name is Skug, and I’ll be your torturer today. Now, if you are innocent, please understand, on balance this works.
“I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.”
—Former V.P. Dick Cheney, giving his reactions on “Meet the Press” regarding the Senate’s critique of the Bush Administration and the CIA’s interrogation methods.
I try to be fair to Dick Cheney, whose character has been distorted beyond all recognition by his partisan foes. Sunday, however, he was apparently attempting to validate all the most terrible things anyone has said about him, as well as providing future students of ethics real life examples of ethical fallacies.
The one quoted above is the pip: so much for the jurisprudential principle that “It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.” Chuck Todd reminded Cheney that 25% of those detained were apparently innocent. The Cheney variation: “It is OK if some innocent persons are unjustly punished as long as the bad guys get what they deserve.”
It is hard to pick the most unethical assertion, however; there are so many horrible statements to choose from. Such as: Continue reading
“You want the truth? Well, you can’t have the truth because I’ve decided that it isn’t newsworthy!”
“I understand that news outlets routinely use stolen information. That’s how we got the Pentagon Papers, to use an oft-used argument. But there is nothing in these documents remotely rising to the level of public interest of the information found in the Pentagon Papers. Do the emails contain any information about Sony breaking the law? No. Misleading the public? No. Acting in direct harm to customers, the way the tobacco companies or Enron did? No. Is there even one sentence in one private email that was stolen that even hints at wrongdoing of any kind? Anything that can help, inform or protect anyone? The co-editor in chief of Variety tells us he decided that the leaks were — to use his word — “newsworthy.” I’m dying to ask him what part of the studio’s post-production notes on Cameron Crowe’s new project is newsworthy. So newsworthy that it’s worth carrying out the wishes of people who’ve said they’re going to murder families and who have so far done everything they’ve threatened to do. Newsworthy. As the character Inigo Montoya said in “The Princess Bride,” I do not think it means what you think it means.”
—-Acclaimed screenwriter, playwright and Hollywood liberal Aaron Sorkin, reprimanding the news media for publishing material from the Sony computer hacks in an Op-Ed in the New York Times.
There are many other titles for this post I considered, like “Jaw-dropping Hypocrisy of the Month,” “Self-serving Delusion of the Month,” and “This Is The Tragedy of Partisan Delusion: Won’t You Give Generously To Help Aaron”?
I’ve got to give the man credit: it takes world class gall for to write something like this self-serving for international consumption. Self-righteous, Freedom of the Press-promoting (Sorkin is the creator and writer of “The Newsroom” series on cable) Hollywood liberals applauded and screamed for blood when a near-senile billionaire’s private comments made in his own bedroom were surreptitiously recorded by his paid female mistress and plastered all over the media, because the private, private, private words suggested that he held racist attitudes, and no matter what he actually did (which was sufficient to be named an NAACP “man of the Year,” a distinction Aaron Sorkin has never earned), that meant that he had to be publicly humiliated, fined millions and stripped of his business. We didn’t hear Sorkin protesting that this wasn’t newsworthy. Nor did the Sorkins of an earlier generation protest when the very same newspaper carrying his essay published criminally stolen Defense Department documents that, whatever was contained in them, were part of a sincere effort to win a war. Continue reading
“I always try to find something good that comes out of conflicts like this, and perhaps people realize that this is not a Ferguson problem at all; it’s a problem around the country. And as long as people feel awkward and embarrassed in talking about the racism that exists, we can never, never, never attack it…The indifference of the patrol officer’s an indication that good people ought to say that you should be sorry when you take anybody’s life. It’s not just the question of what you thought of whether you were afraid…. his total indifference just polarized that community, and I only wish that — that they had not vented themselves in a violent way and taken advantage of people coming together, white and black, and saying that you should at least be able to say you made a hell of a big mistake at least.”
—–Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), wandering confused in the ethics wilderness while discussing the Ferguson mess on MSNBC.
I supposed we should expect Rep. Rangel to be completely muddled when it comes to ethics, given his own history. Still, seldom have I seen such a dog’s breakfast of responsible sentiments and ethics ignorance in the same set of comments:
- Congratulations are due to Rangel for admitting that this Ethics Train Wreck unfairly settled in Ferguson, which is being made to suffer disproportionately for the conduct of many communities and elected officials across the country, as well as the political opportunism of civil rights activists.
- However, public officials have an obligation to be clear. What “racism that exists,” exactly? Anywhere in the U.S.? Absolutely: let’s talk about it. In the shooting of Brown? No racism is in evidence at all: if that’s what Rangel is referring to, and many will assume its is, the statement is irresponsible. Was he talking about the grand jury decision, which was the context of the interview? Prove it, Charlie. Otherwise, stop planting distrust with a population that is paranoid already.
- Michael Brown’s actions, from Wilson’s point of view, forced him into a situation that has resulted in his career being ruined and life being permanently marred….and Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize? This is completely backward. Wilson owes no apologies to Brown, and certainly none to Brown’s parents, who have been carrying on a vendetta against him, calling him a murderer while expressing no acknowledgment that the son they raised had any responsibility for the confrontation that took his life. If anyone owes anybody an apology, it the parents who owe Wilson. Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize for trying to do his job, for not letting Brown take his gun, for not letting him resist arrest, for not letting himself be attacked, and that is ridiculous.
“The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40 or even 50 years ago have escalated past the point of absurdity.These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years. Lawsuits are filed against people in the public eye every day. There has never been a shortage of lawyers willing to represent people with claims against rich, powerful men, so it makes no sense that not one of these new women who just came forward for the first time now ever asserted a legal claim back at the time they alleged they had been sexually assaulted. This situation is an unprecedented example of the media’s breakneck rush to run stories without any corroboration or adherence to traditional journalistic standards. Over and over again, we have refuted these new unsubstantiated stories with documentary evidence, only to have a new uncorroborated story crop up out of the woodwork. When will it end?
—-Martin Singer, one of comedian Bill Cosby’s lawyers, trying to quell the public relations storm that threatens to blow the 77-year-old icon’s career and reputation apart.
I advise lawyers not to make sweeping, emphatic statements like this, for several reasons. First, it comes very close to violating the ethical prohibition against dishonesty, misrepresentation, fraud and deceit. If the lawyer wants to say such words on behalf of his client, that’s one thing, and legitimate representation, though I would prefer to see such statements come from a publicist. For Singer to say something like this on his own behalf, however, harms all of his other clients by scarring his credibility. I don’t believe him, and when it becomes indisputable that Cosby is guilty and that his lawyers had to know, no one will be able to believe him again. Lawyers are supposed to tell the truth, and to represent even the most despicable clients without behaving unethically themselves, within the standards of the profession. That can be difficult, as in this instance. That is why lawyers get the big bucks, however. They should be able to walk that tightrope.
Singer falls right off: Continue reading
“She lied to her mother so she could have sex with her teacher. She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher. Why shouldn’t she be responsible for that?”
—-Lawyer Keith Wyatt, L.A. Unified School District’s trial attorney who successfully defended it in a law suit by the family of a middle school girl who had been engaged in a six month sexual relationship with her math teacher. The girl’s family claimed the district negligently permitted the teacher’s criminal conduct to occur and that the teacher’s exploitation of the girl had caused emotional damage to their daughter. Wyatt also told a radio interviewer that it was a more dangerous for a 14-year-old to cross a street in traffic than to have sex with her middle-school teacher.
Yes, he’s an idiot.
Yeah, those middle school tarts all want it, right, Keith?
The school district fired him, disavowing and apologizing for his comments. Yet they were willing to let Wyatt argue in court—on the school’s behalf, remember— that a 14-year-old middle school student was mature enough to consent to having sex with her 28-year-old teacher, and that she shared responsibility for what happened. Wyatt introduced the girl’s sexual history into evidence as proof of his client’s lack of culpability.
There is nothing wrong or unethical about Wyatt’s tactics in the trial itself. State law is weird in this area—this is California, after all, home of Hollywood, Roman Polanski fans, Woody Allen enablers, Miley Cyrus and the Kardashians—for while the age of consent is 18 in criminal cases, two appellate court rulings have held that the argument that a minor can consent to sex with an adult is permissible in civil law suits. He did what the law permitted him to do in defense of his client. That’s not just ethical lawyering, it is at the core of legal ethics. The argument won. Wyatt did what he was trained to do, paid to do, and obligated to do if he agreed to take the case
However, it is a revolting and irresponsible argument for any school or school district to make. Wyatt should have made this clear, and maybe he did (though that quote doesn’t support such a supposition.) Who in their right mind–well, OK, this is L.A.–would send their child to a school system that takes the position that a 14-year-old student is responsible when she is raped by her 28-year-old teacher, and that she’s really not being harmed if he does? The teacher, Elkis Hermida, was convicted of lewd acts against a child and sentenced in July 2011 to three years in state prison. Continue reading
“Critics accused her of copying campaign materials after parts of her jobs plan and other proposals included segments that were identical to those other Democratic candidates.”
—-Wisconsin State Journal reporter Mary Spicuzza, in a story for the paper about how Democratic Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke felts she was abused and “dragged through the mud” while running, unsuccessfully, against Gov. Scott Walker, arguably the most savaged state politician in any state.
As I wrote about here, Burke DID copy campaign materials. The “critics accused” deceit is increasingly common in today’s journalism, as in “conservatives accused Democrats of using racially divisive tactics in Congressional races.” It’s despicable, and I salute Ann Althouse, a Wisconsin resident, for flagging this unintentionally hilarious example.
Spicuzza wrote “Critics accused” as if the accuracy of the accusation was still a matter of dispute, then stated in the same sentence that “parts of her jobs plans and other proposals” were identical to those of previous candidates. It’s not an accusation then, is it? It’s a fact that her opponents accurately and correctly pointed out, and as I pointed out, one that should have bothered her supporters as much it did “critics.”
This is how partisan and biased journalists warp public perceptions. Burke is claiming to have been “dragged though the mud,” implying unfair treatment, by revelations of accurate and damning facts, and the journalist is supporting that narrative by misleading reporting.
This particular device has been bothering me for a long time. Is it trivial? Sure, each individual example is trivial. Cumulatively, all the examples result in significantly warped and distorted public perceptions. I had to mention it at least once, and how sick to death I am of journalists who can’t just give us facts fairly without pushing their own candidates and agendas.