Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/25/2017: NPR, Spin Cycle, A Mother Bugs A Classroom, and a Jumbo!

 

Good Morning, Black Saturday!

1 Self promotion Dept. I’m going to be back on NPR (WBUR, D.C.) in what I think is a live panel discussion (“Barbershop” is the show—I wonder what a ‘barbershop” is? ) hosted at 5: 30 pm, EST by the estimable Michel Martin. The topic is The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, though that’s not what they’ll be calling it.

2. “For every time, Spin Spin Spin, there is a season..” I may mention this New Republic article, or at least be ready to torch a fellow panelist who cites it favorably. The tortured reasoning of writer David Dayen led him to assert that the “sexual harassment crisis” resulted from ” a broken justice system.” Let me summarize it for you: men harass women in the workplace because it’s too hard to convict people and put them in jail. When did liberals start being the ones who want to dispense with civil rights protections and due process assurances in court?

“But we should identify the real culprit for this state of affairs: the long, slow abandonment of the rule of law in America. The reason adjudicating sexual misconduct claims has been left to the media and the crowd is that people have no expectation that the legal system will adjudicate those claims fairly. How can anyone blame them? They have witnessed endless instances of powerful people, mostly wealthy men, getting away with criminality and deception, in every context imaginable. When you don’t have a working justice system, you get a kind of vigilantism as a result. The problem isn’t the vigilantism—it’s the broken framework that leads desperate people to take matters into their own hands. That powerful people face little sanction for misbehavior is an old story, as true in gender as it is in class. But brazen impunity for the powerful is a hallmark of our era. The worst financial crisis in America in nearly a century led to practically no convictions for those whose actions facilitated the meltdown. The Catholic Church shuttled around sex-abusing priests for decades with little reckoning. Cops shoot black people and go back on the job….”

None of this has much to do with sexual harassment, which isn’t a crime, and the three examples cherry-picked by Dayen don’t support his stated argument. The Wall Street wheeler-dealers operated primarily within loopholes and gray areas in the laws and regulations. There were few convictions because it was hard to prove that laws were broken. When the molesting priests were identified, still living, and in the U.S., many were sent to prison. (That the Catholic Church behaved abysmally doesn’t show that the U.S. justice system is broken, obviously). And “Cops shoot black people and go back on the job” is deceitful, simple-minded agitprop. Colin Kaepernick, is that you?

The article is a desperate and clumsy attempt at ethics jujitsu, with the recent exposure of progressive hypocrites as sexual predators being flipped to pivot to the talking point that “everything is rigged against the poor, blacks and women.” What Dayen ends up arguing is that we need to make it easier to prove criminal guilt when we just know the defendants are bad dudes (white, male and rich) —shouldn’t that be enough?— and all the “beyond a reasonable doubt” stuff should be junked…except when black “non-violent drug offenders” are involved.

3.  It’s still illegal. Fark.com called this story “a woman being arrested for mothering while black.” Nice. David Dayen, is that you?

Norfolk, Va. mother Sarah Sims–her race is 100% irrelevant—has been charged with a felony for hiding a digital recorder in her daughter’s backpack to obtain evidence that the girl was being bullied. Sims says she was frustrated at the lack of a response from the school regarding her complaints, so she acted on her own to prove what the 4th-grade student was experiencing in the classroom. School authorities discovered the recorder, the 9-year-old was switched to a different classroom, and one month later her mother was charged with felony use of a device to intercept oral communications and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The felony charge could carry five years in prison.

“I tried to be fair, but it’s not fair,” protested Mrs. Sims. “There is nothing fair about this.”

I’ll wait to see what happens. She won’t be serving any five years, and if the DA is smart, he will seek a suspended sentence and a modest fine. It is fair, indeed necessary, to arrest citizens who violate the law, and bugging a classroom, which is what Sims did, while using a child as an accomplice, is illegal and ought to be.

I do wonder if the wiretapping and surreptitious recording laws need to be updated in an era where almost everything is recorded on somebody’s cell phone.

4.  Tweet Wars, Here is one of the President’s more interesting Twitter battles, with many implications He tweeted yesterday,

“Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named “Man (Person) of the Year,” like last year. But I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway!”

TIME fired back,

“The President is incorrect about how we choose Person of the Year. TIME does not comment on our choice until publication, which is December 6.”

Observations:

  • TIME’s tweet is bizarre. The President didn’t say anything about how TIME chooses its “Person of the Year.” They have to do some pre-publication work before announcing the choice and contact the honoree in advance. I read TIME for decades, until it was transmuted into crap. The famous annual issue often had quotes that were clearly obtained for the issue and before publication. Nor was what Trump reported a  TIME “comment” on its choice.

TIME implies the President is dissembling, but never denied what he wrote. “There was never such a phone call” is the required rebuttal. Where is it?

  • AOL used this headline: “TIME Magazine refutes Trump’s claim that he turned down 2017 Person of the Year award.”

Fake news! TIME didn’t refute anything. At most it disputed Trump’s account, and didn’t really even do that.

  • The President’s tweet has, I think, a larger purpose, which is to continue to demonstrate that he and his administration believe that the news media is thoroughly untrustworthy, and no longer deserves the deference and cooperation that has been routinely given in the past. He’s right, and AOL showed why he’s right.

5.  “Elephant? What elephant?” A Jumbo from the the Baltimore Police Chief! Baltimore homicide Detective Sean Suiter was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury in the case against a squad of indicted police officers, but was shot and killed the day before he was to take the stand.  He was a key witness in the prosecution of eight members of the department’s elite gun task force, who are accused of shaking down citizens and conspiring with drug dealers. Suiter’s is the first killing of an on-duty officer by a suspect in 10 years.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a statement that authorities have no reason to believe Suiter’s killing was connected to his pending testimony.

No reason? No reason? I agree it is circumstantial evidence, but when a potentially devastating witness, a cop, is gunned down the day before he is supposed to testify,  that is certainly a reason to be a little suspicious, don’t you think, Commissioner?

Your making this statement is also a reason to believe Suiter’s killing was connected to his pending testimony.

6. Sad…Yesterday’s Warm-up was inexplicably dated JULY 24, 2017. Nobody noticed until this morning.

51 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Social Media

51 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/25/2017: NPR, Spin Cycle, A Mother Bugs A Classroom, and a Jumbo!

  1. Chris

    The President’s tweet has, I think, a larger purpose, which is to continue to demonstrate that he and his administration believe that the news media is thoroughly untrustworthy, and no longer deserves the deference and cooperation that has been routinely given in the past. He’s right, and AOL showed why he’s right.

    That’s certainly one purpose of his tweet. Another is to say, once again, “People love me! I’m the best! Even people who won’t admit they love me actually love me!” And given that Trump has lied about being contacted and asked for interviews several times before, Time’s implication that he is lying is entirely credible, while Trump’s claim is not. When I read the tweet, I assumed he was lying even before I saw Time’s response, because he’s lied about this kind of thing before.

    • Nothing about TIME is “entirely credible,” and as I noted, it did not directly deny that the phone call took place….probably because Trump could prove it did.

      Also,nothing about being chosen Person of the Year suggests that anyone loves the awardee, as last year’s Time story made very clear.

      • Chris

        Huh? I said Time’s implication that Trump is lying was entirely credible, not the magazine as a whole. Do you dispute this?

        I know that declaring someone Man of the Year doesn’t imply that they love the awardee. Does Trump? He has been obsessed with Time magazine for years, and spent several years prior to winning last year publicly begging them to name him Man of the Year on Twitter. He is obsessed with fame and status, which is why he tweeted this out. Think: Would Obama have ever released a statement like this? Would Bush? Would anyone who made even the slightest attempt to keep their vain narcissism in check? Your description of the intended message of the tweet is positive spin that obscures how unprofessional and petty this was, and would be even if it were true. There is no criticism of Trump’s tweet in your post or subsequent comment; all of your criticism is reserved for Time.

        • Nobody has the high road in this case. Whether Trump was lying or not, it was indeed petty of him to make that tweet. It was also petty of Time to make that non-denial to make us THINK they didn’t call him when they actually did.

        • I dispute it: in this case, it makes no sense for Trump to make up the story out of whole cloth, and TIME’s response was slimy.

          • Chris

            It makes no sense for Trump to make up a lot of the lies that he tells. The fake Time magazine covers in his resorts made no sense. It made no sense for him to accuse Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. It made no sense for him to tell the, in your words, “Nazi lie” that thousands of Muslims cheered 9/11 in New Jersey. We are not dealing with a rational man.

            I think Time was trying to be polite by not outright saying that Trump lied.

            • crella

              Those Time covers were some kind of novelty/fun gift years ago. I remember that, but can’t remember who put them out, or how much they were. II think they were a bubble era thing. Now you can get the template
              on line and make your own, too.

              https://www.fotojet.com/template/magazine/magazine-01/

              Do you think Time would spare Trump’s feelings if it had the chance to prove he lied? He was Person of the Year in 2016, so he’s familiar with the process.

              It’s interesting that Time isn’t denying contact outright. ‘It’s not announced until Dec. 6’ doesn’t mean anything in regard to the Tweet. Time’s site talks about their choice of photographer for Person of the Year-

              “For the 2016 Person of the Year issue, TIME commissioned Nadav Kander to photograph President-elect Donald Trump—the person deemed to have most influenced the year’s news, for better or worse—for the cover of the magazine.”

              so it’s not a surprise to the person picked, and they do contact them for a photo shoot and interview. Time’s response reads like embarrassment at being turned down.

              • Chris

                I find it very unlikely. Has Time ever picked the same Person of the Year twice in a row?

                • crella

                  Why didn’t they say ‘We did not contact Trump’?

                  • Chris

                    I don’t know. Perhaps they’re trying to avoid calling him a liar. I wouldn’t be as generous.

                    Perhaps we’ll find out December 6th.

                    • Dwayne N. Zechman

                      ???

                      Finding out that President Trump is NOT “Man of the Year” will essentially corroborate BOTH stories. We won’t find out a damn thing on Dec 6th.

                      –Dwayne

                    • Chris

                      Not what I meant. The magazine said they do not comment on their choice until Dec. 6th. Presumably that means they don’t comment about potential choices until then, either.

                      That said, the magazine’s chief content officer already said that there not a “speck of truth” to Trump’s tweet, which is a much stronger denial.

                      It’s also important to note that Trump’s statement about a photo shoot and interview being required doesn’t seem to be true–Merkel did not participate in anything similar when she was named Person of the Year.

                      Finally, if Time really did approach Trump to be Person of the Year for the second time in a row, then their initial tweet in response to his claim makes no sense. There is no reason for them to issue something that sounds like a denial if Trump’s claim was true. I have no reason to suspect the Time employee who sent that tweet is an irrational or dishonest person, while we know that Trump is, in addition to being obsessed with Time magazine.

                      The most logical conclusion here really is that Trump is lying, and I am at a loss as to why rational people are having so much trouble with that conclusion.

                  • Because it’s more important in today’s atmosphere to impugn the President than be honest: that’s how about 80% of the news media roll. Ari Fleischer’s story confirms what I assumed. Trump trolled TIME, TIME was annoyed, and lied.

                    • Chris

                      What? Fleischer’s tweet does not confirm anything about Trump’s claim.

                    • It confirms that TIME has behaved as Trump described in the past. What’s the matter with you?

                    • Chris

                      What’s the matter with me? These are two completely different claims:

                      “ Ari Fleischer’s story confirms what I assumed. Trump trolled TIME, TIME was annoyed, and lied.”

                      “Fleischer’s story confirms that TIME has behaved as Trump described in the past.”

                      Why are you pretending these mean the same thing? Fleischer’s story confirms the latter, but not the former.

                    • Fleisher’s story confirmed that TIME’s representation that Trump accurate characterization of how they dealt with potential honorees was false, and a dishonest reaction to Trump’s trolling–which included telling TIME to screw itself in the call. Is THAT clearer?

                    • Chris

                      Yes, but you’re still wrong. Fleischer is describing something that happened sixteen years ago. It isn’t possible that Time’s procedure is different now?

                • I’d guess not, but only because the cover is not, and has never been, a legitimate, objective assessment. FDR, Hitler, Churchill and many others could have been named two or more years in a row. That doesn’t mean the magazine wouldn’t do it, if only to use that as another PR boost: “For the first time ever, TIME has designated the same Person of the Year, two years in a row! Read why this precednt-breaking choice was mandated, in the latest issue….”

                  • valkygrrl

                    Nixon had two years in a row.

                    • Thanks: I thought TIME would have done it at least once by now. So it would be, “For only the second time in our long history, we have designated Donald Trump…”

                    • valkygrrl

                      I doubt they’ll pick him. POTUS is always in the running but #METOO is a strong contender so’s Robert Muller.

                    • What has Mueller done, other than allow leaks, waste money, and give ‘the resistance” something to hope and pray for?

                    • valkygrrl

                      Muller’s every subpoena, every hire, every indictment, every leak, and for all I know, every sandwich he orders in gets reported through the media. Person of the year is not an accomplishment, you don’t do something to earn it, it’s just a thing that happens. Muller makes news.

                      Kim Jung Un, Putin, and Mugabe are probably in the running too

                    • Oh, hell, it could be Colin Kaepernick, Harvey Weinstein, Alexander Hamilton, Robert E. Lee, General Kelly, “The Sexual Harasser”, Julian Assange, Roy Moore, Stephen Colbert, “The Dreamers”, Joe Arpaio…you.

                      If they were serious, which they are not, of course it would be Trump.

                      And of course it is an accomplishment. It means you’re important.

                    • Chris

                      If they were serious, which they are not, of course it would be Trump.

                      Yikes. So they have to pick exactly the same person as they did last year, or they’re not serious? You can’t believe that.

                    • Of course I believe it; it’s true. TIME’s alleged criteria is the person who has had the greatest impact on world events for good or ill. It’s real criteria is “what choice will create buzz, provoke comment and sell magazines.” I’d guess that Trump’s name has been written and spoken in the US social media and news media at least twice as often as any other name. Meanwhile, his very existence has driven the news media insane. He has sparked a Wall Street boom and employment; he has illegal immigrants on the run; his most trivial tweet makes headlines. Seldom has there been a clearer choice—if TIME was serious.

                    • valkygrrl

                      you

                      That was 2006.

                      And of course it is an accomplishment. It means you’re important.

                      Notoriety doesn’t necessarily equate to importance.

                      Yes it could be any of those people or issues, they’re valid choices. Why do I feel like your hackles are raised? Time has a long history with this, they want to highlight a major source of news for good or ill and they want to sell magazines. Hell, maybe they’ll pull something out of left field and go with the story most US media has been too distracted to cover in-depth and give us a nice long write-up about how the Saudis have been playing the game of thrones.

                      It could be Trump, whatever he says about declining. It could be one of the others named.

                    • Hackles? My hackles aren’t raised in any way. TIME is a poor, hard-left biased joke now, and magazines are dinosaurs. I just find the magazine’s obviously deceitful effort to discredit the President one more disgusting example of the phenomenon the previous post was about.

                      I’d guess that 1% of TIME year end cover stars didn’t regard it as an accomplishment. Notoriety and fame isn’t an accomplishment? Tell it to Kim Kardashian, Ben Carson, Kaepernick, Milo and about 500 others of dubious or non-existent value who have parlayed it into support, influence and often cash.

                    • “TIME is a poor, hard-left biased joke now, and magazines are dinosaurs.”

                      It gets worse.

                      TIME isn’t itself, they’re about to become a part of the EVIL EMPIRE, partly owned by the Anti-Christ/Devil Incarnate Koch Brothers; enough to give any Lefty worth their smelling salts the vapors.

                      Former editor Charles Alexander, while waxing whiny, puts it a tad more succinctly:

                      “Can you imagine what it would be like to see your life’s work suddenly go down the drain?”

                      To be more specific, Alexander is…um…overheating because the Koch Brothers don’t support the Lefty narrative on Climate Change.

                      TIME magazine has led the charge on Global Warming from the beginning, when, by some cruel twist of fate, it was called Global Cooling.

                      Anywho, Alexander’s ox has been gored, and he’s chosen to not go gentle into that good night.

                      https://www.thenation.com/article/dont-let-the-koch-brothers-buy-time-magazine/

                    • Chris

                      TIME magazine has led the charge on Global Warming from the beginning, when, by some cruel twist of fate, it was called Global Cooling.

                      Are you really going to make me debunk this lie again?

                    • Chris

                      Hackles? My hackles aren’t raised in any way. TIME is a poor, hard-left biased joke now, and magazines are dinosaurs. I just find the magazine’s obviously deceitful effort to discredit the President one more disgusting example of the phenomenon the previous post was about.

                      I find your attempt to discredit TIME by covering for the obviously deceitful President one more disgusting example of how your anti-media and contrarian bias is slowly morphing into a pro-Trump bias.

                    • Chris

                      He has sparked a Wall Street boom and employment

                      There’s little evidence that this is anything but results of trends that started under Obama. Unemployment is down only a half percentage point since he left office, and was already falling.

                    • Uh-huh. This is always a claim, but the fact is the Presidents get credit and blame for what occurs in the economy under their watch. Always. Moreover, the business reaction is at least in part traceable to the actual reductions in regulations, as the President promised.

                    • Chris

                      I do not recall you giving credit to Obama for rising employment or Wall Street gains, but perhaps I missed that.

                    • Because the rising employment was far too slow and came from a low point.

                      Obama was being praised no matter what he did, no matter whether it was good or bad, or whether it worked or not. It’s an ethics blog: if I mention Trump’s economy, its is only to highlight the unfairness and bias of the news media refusing to give him credit when it would be sending nosegays to anyone else. (Crushing ISIS is another example.) Since the news media was essentially a partisan cheering section for Obama, my job was to point out where the biased coverage buried his botches and failures.

  2. Ash

    > I do wonder if the wiretapping and surreptitious recording laws need to be updated in an era where almost everything is recorded on somebody’s cell phone.

    That’s the truth. Wiretapping laws come from the 1930s and the age of telephones and party lines it’s not like it’s the founders summarizing the experience and philosophies of the ages. That’s why we get these bizarre rules that in many states you can visually record people but you cannot record the audio.

    Two party consent seems most used to protect the guilty. I gather that California has tried to reform that somewhat. Slates says “. In California, for example, you can record a conversation without the other person knowing if you believe it will collect evidence of a serious crime.”

    ———

    According to Jonathan Turley, a Time Editor came out with a bit more robust denial of Trump’s claim in a tweet.

    @alansmurray
    “Amazing. Not a speck of truth here—Trump tweets he ‘took a pass’ at being named TIME’s person of the year”

  3. valkygrrl

    4: You shouldn’t call it an honor. It’s a distinction. Being person of the year has to do with impact and newsmaking good or bad, hence some of the objectively awful people who’ve been named in the past.

    • Glenn Logan

      I actually agree with this, although I can make an argument that it is an honor because it appears to be intended as one.

  4. I’m not sure I agree with #3. Yeah, if it’s the law on the books, you gotta enforce it, but I don’t think it should be law, and this case is a good reason why. She had tried to address the issue through the proper channels, it didn’t work, so she gathered proof and did what was necessary to get the school to do it’s job. There was a case similar to this one where the mother was NOT prosecuted, but sued the school and got a settlement. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/couple-hides-recording-device-developmentally-disabled-daughter-prove-teacher-school-aide-bullying-article-1.978895

    • Glenn Logan

      She gathered the proof in violation of the law, though. Her motivation was certainly worthy, but her execution was flawed. There are surely other ways to assemble evidence than electronically bugging a classroom.

      No doubt her motives were worthy, and doubtless that will figure in her favor. But she clearly broke the law, and that shouldn’t be ignored, especially considering how it was done.

      The prosecutor could legitimately decide that he should let it go, but this one doesn’t feel inclined to. It’s his call, and an earlier call that went the other way isn’t and shouldn’t be a precedent.

      • Ash

        When she approached proper authorities, they ignored her.

        She didn’t entrap anyone, she violated no one’s privacy because conversations with the teacher and in the classroom were not private, and conversations of bullies threatening her kid are evidence of criminal behavior. She used a recording device to accurate record incompentence, malfeasance, bullying at the school.

        Her being charged and fined say $1 “because breaking the law is bad” should be matched with an apology from the school, charging of the bullies and any teachers that ignored that and resignations from the principal and his staff.

        What was her alternative?
        + Sue the school? With what money, and in what timeframe?
        + Move her kids to a new school? Why should she and her kid have to put up with that.

        Anything more than a trivial charging of this woman with a trivial misdemeanor or less is the unethical act here.

        • How about we just abolosh the school?

          There is no more use for the school than the executive branch had a use for James Comey.

        • Glenn Logan

          When she approached proper authorities, they ignored her.

          True. They were wrong to ignore her. That was unethical and incompetent behavior.

          She didn’t entrap anyone, she violated no one’s privacy because conversations with the teacher and in the classroom were not private, and conversations of bullies threatening her kid are evidence of criminal behavior.

          Wait, what? “Entrap[ment]” is a term which applies to the authorities, not to the general public. I am not aware of any criminal statutes forbidding a private citizen from entrapping a lawbreaker, so I’m not sure what that means.

          As to violations of privacy, the school forbids electronic devices. Recording the conversations of another without their knowledge or consent is always ethically questionable to say the very least, and in this case straightforwardly against the policy of the school, not to mention the law. As the law itself is based on ensuring privacy, I’m not sure I buy your argument that because it happened in a school it was not private.

          With respect to her motivation, you may not break a law to prove lawbreaking. We apply that doctrine to the police, and I think likely the exclusionary rule could be applied if she had successfully brought a case against the bullies, due to the illegal nature of the evidence gathering even though it was done by a civilian. The evidence is still fruit of the poisonous tree, so even her noble desire to bring the bullies to justice despite the “see no evil” of an uncaring bureaucracy would’ve been frustrated by her illegal execution of evidence gathering.

          Her being charged and fined say $1 “because breaking the law is bad” should be matched with an apology from the school, charging of the bullies and any teachers that ignored that and resignations from the principal and his staff.

          I agree that she should suffer mild punishment, but that’s up to the prosecutor. The school, as far as I can tell, has broken no laws despite their ethical turpitude. We have only her word that bullying was happening, and no other evidence at all. Absent that, I’m not sure what the school could do other than move the child, which they’ve done.

          As to your question about why she and her child should have to “put up with” being moved, my answer is, what would you have them do? Take her word over the word of the other children, and expel them? That would hardly be ethical or just.

          Sometimes, there simply is no good answer, so the least bad answer has to suffice. Moving the child was clearly the least bad of the available alternatives.

          Being a German immigrant, my wife was bullied as the spawn of an enemy. Her mother told her to stand up for herself, so my wife then attacked her tormentor on the bus and drubbed her into submission, thereby ending the bullying.

          Alas, different times. Safe spaces, and all that.

  5. # 5 Just like with Seth Rich & former U.N. official John Ashe: nothing to see here.

    # 6 Seven come Eleven…

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