Category Archives: Government & Politics

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Attorney General Eric Holder

“While the grand jury proceeding in St. Louis County has concluded, the Justice Department’s investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown remains ongoing.  Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now.  Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence.  And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.”

—-Attorney General Eric Holder’s official statement following the announcement that the grand jury would not be handing down an indictment against Michale Brown’s shooter, Officer Wilson.

Sure, why change now?

Sure, why change now?

Why is this statement so unethical? There are three reasons.

1. The positioning of this statement, at the very beginning of the whole release, suggests and is meant to suggest that Holder and the Justice Department are in sympathy with those who believe that Wilson should be prosecuted. It translates into “Don’t despair! There is still hope! Your black Attorney General is doing all he can to get this racist cop and avenge Mike Brown!” for many who read or heard it, and that was the intent.

2. This is misrepresentation, essentially a lie, designed to mislead. No legal experts believe that there is any chance that the Justice Department will find probable cause to make a civil rights case against Wilson, and Holder is too good a lawyer—or once was—not to know that.  The bar is too high, and the evidence isn’t there, just as it wasn’t there in the equally futile civil rights investigation against George Zimmerman. Most, if not all, of those determined to see Wilson punished don’t comprehend what the investigation of the shooting by Justice signifies, and think it is just a separate chance to get him on trial for murder. Holder, again intentionally, did nothing to enlighten them.

3. To the extent that anyone does believe that the Justice investigation holds out hope of an indictment against Wilson, Holder is setting Brown’s supporters up for a second disappointment, and conceivably setting up Ferguson and the nation for a second round of rioting when the inevitable bad news comes down. Good plan.

What an ethics disaster and a national disgrace Eric Holder has been as Attorney General. And he is clearly determined to be both until the day he walks out of Justice for good….and I do mean “for good.

 

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Verdict: The Grand Jury Process Was Fair and Just

abstract door grand jury room

The accusations and complaints about the Darren Wilson grand jury just don’t hold up.

Criminal law professor Paul Cassell consolidates several issues raised in the comments here and in the news media in his excellent analysis in the Volokh Conspiracy, here.

Among the criticisms he addresses…

1. Using a Grand Jury Deviated from Normal Process.
2. The Grand Jury Took Too Long.
3. The Grand Jury Got Too Much Evidence.
4. The Grand Jury Operated in Secret.
5. The Grand Jury Was Exposed to Pressure.
6. The Grand Jury Did Something That Grand Juries Ordinarily Don’t Do.
7. The Grand Jury Misunderstood the Standard of Proof.
8. Robert McCulloch was Biased and Should Have Recused Himself.
9. The Grand Jury Evidence Shouldn’t Be Released.

He also echoes my conclusion about many of the protesters, as he ends his piece with this: Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “The Ferguson Riots: Of Course.”

I know this is a departure: this is my own comment. After I posted it in a fevered state, I decided that it warranted wider exposure.

It comes in response to a jaw-dropping post by one of the most articulate and analytical regulars on Ethics Alarms, who wrote in response to the original essay, this, beginning with a quote from it:

“the activists don’t care, literally don’t care, about [what really happened and why] For them, the issue is simple. A white cop in a racist police department shot an unarmed black teen to death, and that means that there will be riots if he’s not indicted.”

“As there should be.

The moral is – if you don’t want riots, regardless of whether the shooting was justified (if I were on the Grand Jury, then on the scraps of evidence I’ve seen, I’d indict to let it go to trial – just as if I were on the jury of the trial, I’d acquit barring more evidence) – anyway, the moral is – don’t run a racist police department.

Such civil disturbance is the natural countermeasure to tyranny.

I consider such civil disturbance to be a really, really, REALLY bad thing. I think anyone rational does. That means we have a responsibility to make sure that Law Enforcement is not so manifestly, systemically unjust that regardless of the facts in an individual case, riots are inevitable.

What should be is that there’s a justice system that, even though imperfect, is not so horrible that rational people become irrational and desperate. While there will always be some who are “professional rioters”, without a groundswell of popular sentiment behind them, they’re a small bunch of crims easily dealt with.”

After I carefully picked my jaw off the floor, I wrote this, the Comment of the Day, in response… Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

The Ferguson Riots: Of Course.

A car burns on the street after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri

From Ethics Alarms, August 17, 2014:

IF the evidence supports the conclusion that Brown charged at Wilson, neither the family of the slain teen, nor the African American community in Ferguson, nor the protesters, the race-hustlers, the black and progressive politicians who benefit by preserving racial tension and distrust,  much of the news media and many, many pundits and political bloggers, will change their rhetoric, accusations or the prevailing Ferguson narrative one bit. They need for the narrative as it stands to be true, and want it to be true. Massive confirmation bias will ensure that the death of Mike Brown will be talked about, protested and regarded as an example of racist police oppression of young black men, and the truth, in the end, will be irrelevant.

I hope my prediction is wrong.

But it was not wrong. Everything that has happened since the announcement that the grand jury returned no indictment against Darren Wilson has been inevitable for months, and more so since no responsible steps were taken by the Obama administration to prevent it all. The desultory, disgusted, support-of-the-rule-of-law-by-rote speech by the President tonight, calling for calm while signaling to all by tone, expression and body language that his personal opinion was in conflict with his words, couldn’t have helped.

So now the race-baiters, dividers, bigots, rioters, looters, and hustlers, as well as the rest who have waited for so long to exploit this tragedy for partisan and ideological objectives, have what they want.

My thoughts on the matter from an ethics point of view were stated here a month ago. The riots, lootings and burnings hadn’t happened yet, but otherwise everything is as it was when I wrote…

At this point, confirmation bias has completely taken over the Ferguson story, meaning that a combination of factors—police incompetence; a toxic racial culture in the city and region;  the racial distrust carefully nurtured by Democrats, the Obama Administration, and an irresponsible news media; anger and cynicism by non-black, non-race-baiters over the disgraceful George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin tragedy;  the slanted reporting of Brown’s shooting from the outset, and especially the full commitment of the civil rights establishment to make this incident the centerpiece of an attack on racial profiling and police violence against blacks regardless of whether the facts of the case justify it—now make any fair resolution of the incident impossible. They also guarantee that whatever occurs, the end result will be police anger, more racial division and distrust, and activists continuing to promote a false or misleading narrative as truth, just as in the Zimmerman-Martin debacle. It is hopeless….

….the activists don’t care, literally don’t care, about [what really happened and why] For them, the issue is simple. A white cop in a racist police department shot an unarmed black teen to death, and that means that it was a racially motivated murder.

The police and their mostly conservative defenders also don’t care about the details. Once again, a dedicated public servant who put his life on the line was forced to use deadly force against a dangerous thug who attacked him, and because the cop is white, is being persecuted and unjustly maligned.

Everyone is poised to see what they want to see, believe what supports their biases and agendas, and shout loudly about injustice regardless of what occurs, fertilizing the ground for the next incident they can exploit, along with cynical politicians.

Good job, everybody.

_______________________

UPDATE: The grand jury documents are beginning to trickle out. Here is Officer Wilson’s testimony.

 

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Ethics Dunce: Ashlea Johnson And The Supporters Of Her Petition

Crack Mayor

How wrong is the Change.org petition posted by Ashlea Johnson and demanding that TMZ remove and apologize for the above headline announcing the death of Marion Barry?

1. This is an attempt to whitewashing a very soiled legacy.

2. Barry, and no one else, ruined his legacy. Next to using crack while Mayor of Washington D.C. (and being filmed in the process), Barry is best known for his immortal quote after his arrest with an old girl-friend and drug pal: “Bitch set me up!”

3. TMZ has both the freedom to publish whatever it chooses however it chooses, as long as it is true. This is true. Barry was “the Crack Mayor.” Deal with it.

4. It would have been good for all if Barry’s enablers and supporters forced him to apologize and be accountable for his various crimes, hustles and misdeeds, of which the crack was only the most spectacular. Instead, Ashlea Johnson and those like her kept electing Barry, who was unrepentant and unreformed, to office,  sending the message to District politicians that character and honesty, even good citizenship, don’t matter as much as group identification and cronyism

The TMZ headline was certainly not kind, polite or diplomatic, but rogues, miscreants and thieves do not deserve pleasant or respectful obituaries. When Bernie Madoff dies, he will be called a swindler, because he was one. When Anthony Weiner passes on, he will be noted as the “sexting Congressman,” because that was his legacy. Monica Lewinsky will be eulogized in the press as Clinton’s intern plaything, or something nastier: what else should she be remembered for? Marion Barry could have earned a headline describing him as a transformative mayor of the nation’s Capital, for he had the ability to be that and more. Barry chose to be the Crack Mayor instead.

Ashlea should have sent him a petition about forty years ago, demanding that he stop being such a jerk.

________________

Pointer: Mediaite

 

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Obama Fires Hagel: The Flat Learning Curve Budges

Scapegoat

Sniffs the Weekly Standard:

How Do You Spell Scapegoat? H-A-G-E-L.

Chuck Hagel, apparently fired as Secretary of Defense, was exactly who and what Obama wanted, a weak Defense Secretary willing to carry out the President’s plan of demilitarizing of the U.S. and reducing U.S. power abroad. But that plan has led to rapidly deteriorating stability around the globe, and with ISIS appearing to be winning while the U.S. has restricted itself to bomb runs and “advisors,” Obama had a choice. He could, as he has consistently done for six years, refuse to acknowledge that his policies were misfiring and that his team was failing, thus giving the public no reason to believe that he knew, or perhaps even cared, that his ideology didn’t translate into desirable real world results. He could continue blaming others—Republicans, bad luck, Bush—for failures, and keep his loyalists in their jobs no matter how incompetent they appeared. In the alternative, he could signal that he was not satisfied with the status quo, and let heads roll—you know, like real leaders do. Continue reading

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CNN’s Selective Choice Of Targets For Selective Criticism For Selective News Coverage

Or, if you prefer, "CNN's journalism ethics show."

Or, if you prefer, “CNN’s journalism ethics show.”

On the host of CNN”s unreliable media ethics and criticism show, Reliable Sources, slammed Fox News:

STELTER: Boy, has Fox News spent a lot of time over the past two years focused on the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and I mean a lot of time. […] But when a new Benghazi report came out on Friday, there was hardly a peep, and maybe that’s because the report, which was Republican led, it was by the    , debunks many of the myths that have run rampant on Fox News and in conservative media circles. […] So I have to wonder: will Fox will stop aggressively pushing its theories about Benghazi? Probably not. With its audience largely in the dark about the latest findings, the myths may, and perhaps will, live on.

Wheels within wheels, deceit within deceit, hypocrisy within hypocrisy. The criticism was correct and deserved, as Fox News’ own media critic (and the former unreliable host of Reliable Sources) noted as well. It also was notable for what it left out:

  • Despite being routinely ridiculed as a witch-hunting political mob, the Republicans on the Committee fought for the investigation. That it exonerated the Administration is pure moral luck: apparently CNN has forgotten Hillary’s famous shouted “what difference does it make?” The fact that there was, in the end, nothing sinister to cover up doesn’t excuse the administration for obfuscating, dragging its feet and sending Susan Rice out to lie on talk shows to avoid scrutiny, and it was that conduct that convinced many that something was rotten in Libya.
  • This result does not excuse CNN’s network for its complicity in assisting the White House’s efforts before the 2012 election to pretend there were no facts to clarify. CNN failed to cover this story sufficiently before the truth was known, and had Fox News and the Republicans not kept the inquiry alive, we would not have a definitive report for Fox to emulate the liberal- biased media by burying. Stelter’s snide comments are the height of hypocrisy.

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