Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 12, 2018: Mistakes, Senators, Survivors, The Pope And Cosby

Good morning!

(I’m in a good mood because this happened last night…)

1. Incompetent elected officials of the month…From Reason:

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary and Commerce, Science, and Transportation committees grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the company’s insufficient efforts to protect users’ personal data…

Sen. Roy Blunt, (R–Mo.) … didn’t seem to understand that Facebook lacks a means of accessing information from other apps unless users specifically opt in…. Sen. Roger Wicker (R–Miss.) needed a lot of clarification on how Facebook Messenger interacts with cellular service. Zuckerberg had to carefully explain to Sen. Brian Schatz (D–Hawaii) that WhatsApp is encrypted, and Facebook can’t read, let alone monetize, the information people exchange using that service. Zuckerberg had to explain to multiple senators, including Sen. Dean Heller (R–Nev.), that Facebook doesn’t technically sell its data: The ad companies don’t get to see the raw information. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D–Vt.) brought along a poster on which his office had printed out images of various Facebook pages. Leahy asked whether these were Russian propaganda groups. “Senator, are you asking about those specifically?” Zuckerberg asked. He of course had no way of knowing what was going on with those specific pages, just from looking at pictures of them….Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) offered this metaphor: “the way I explain it to my constituents is that if someone breaks into my apartment with a crowbar and takes my stuff, it’s just like if the manager gave them the keys.” But …Facebook didn’t willfully assist in a crime. …Sen. Debbie Fischer (R–Neb.) didn’t understand, at a fundamental level, that if you’re using Facebook, you have agreed to let Facebook know a lot of information about you. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) asked whether Facebook had any major competitors. …


This is a theme of regulation, rules and laws in the cyber age: the officials responsible for regulating the uses and abuses of technology don’t use the technology involved, don’t understand it, aren’t willing to take the time to learn, and are apparently not even aware of how irresponsible and incompetent this is, how stupid and lazy it makes them look, and how it undermines the public trust.

2. But don’t worry…In his testimony, Zuckerberg said that Facebook was working on a way to ban “hate speech.” I can’t wait to see what the left-wing crypto-fascists who run the Big Tech giants consider “hate speech.”  Actually, we have some pretty good clues. Facebook silenced pro-Trump video-bloggers “Diamond and Silk,” deeming their political content “unsafe to the community.”

“Why is Facebook censoring conservative bloggers such as Diamond & Silk?” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) asked the Facebook CEO. “That is ludicrous. They hold conservative views. That isn’t ‘unsafe.’”

“In that specific case, our team made an enforcement error and we have already gotten in touch with them to reverse it,” Zuckerberg answered.

Yyyyyyeah. In that particular case, Facebook slapped down some uppity black conservative women who enjoyed dishing with Sean Hannity on Fox News, then backed off and called it “a mistake” when the over-whelmingly negative reaction didn’t just come from the Right. Progressives must be salivating at the prospect of having a Democratic Party-dominated government bolstered by the mainstream media while public opinion and political advocacy is disciplined and vetted by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Amazon.

3. Bulletin: Nobody was ever killed by sexual harassment. The current employment of “survivor” misleads the public, emotionalizes policy debate, and cheapens the word so real survivors cannot get the respect and understanding they deserve. It is more Orwellian manipulation by rhetoric. A woman survives rape. A woman survives an attack or physical abuse.  Expending “survivor” to describe anyone who has been subjected to injustice, cruelty, bias or unpleasant personal or workplace experiences is designed to distort perceptions of what happened. Other words being used this way include hero-–this was a special bugaboo of my dad, an actual decorated WW II  hero, who objected to the term being applied indiscriminately to anyone who carried a rifle after being drafted. (Of course, he didn’t like being called a hero himself, saying, “The alternative to “coward” is not “hero”), and safe, when used to mean “safe from unwelcome opinions and words.”

4. NOW we know why Pope Francis said there was no Hell: because if there is, he’s going there.

Great, now the Pope is using Rationalization #19:

The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”

This is a legitimate defense if, in fact, an individual has been accused of not being perfect.  Usually, however, it is an attempt to minimize the significance of genuine misconduct. When an act suggests that more than an honest mistake or single instance of bad judgment was involved, and that an individual’s conduct indicates a broader lack of character or ethical sensitivity, “Nobody’s perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!” are not only inappropriate and irrelevant, but are presumptively efforts to change the subject. The fact that nobody is perfect does not mean that it isn’t necessary and appropriate to point out unethical conduct when it occurs. It also does not argue for failing to make reasonable assumptions about the ethical instincts of the actor if and when the unethical nature of conduct strongly suggests that it is not an aberration, but a symptom.

The Pope visited  Chile and Peru in January, and there defended Bishop Juan Barros Madrid in direct disregard for the testimony of sexual abuse victims who h claimed the Bishop witnessed and covered abuse by his mentor, Reverand Fernando Karadima. The Pope said he had seen no “proof” of a cover-up. And who can blame him? Who ever heard of Catholic priests molesting children and the Church covering it up? What a ridiculous smear! Who would believe such a thing? These are holy people! Good people! GOD’s people!

On the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis sort of apologized to the victims for demanding “proof,”  then again attacked the bishop’s accusers. He also admitted that he had twice rejected the resignation  of Bishop Barros, whom he appointed in 2015. “I am also convinced he is innocent,” Francis said. Yet Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston later declared that he had hand-delivered a victim’s letter to Pope Francis with a graphic account of how Bishop Barros had observed sexual abuse by a priest.

Then Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna produced the testimony he had taken of 64 victims in Santiago and New York, more than 2,300 pages woth. With the walls closing in, Pope Francis issued an apology, saying in part,

“As far as my role, I acknowledge, and ask you to convey faithfully, that I have made grave errors in assessment and perception of the situation, especially as a result of lack of information that was truthful and balanced. From this time I ask forgiveness to all those that I offended and I hope to do so personally, in the following weeks, in meetings that I will hold with representatives of the people who were interviewed.”

This is, remember, 17 years after the Catholic Church sexual predator scandal and the world-wide cover-up was revealed.

5. But Bill Cosby will be along to tell Fat Albert stories, so there’s that...The good news is that there is no longer any solid foundation a Coz fan in denial can pin his or her denial to: the man is a monster and a menace. The bad news is that in allowing other victims to testify in the Cosby’s trial on charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, at his home near here in 2004, the judge in the case is laying another foundation, one for a successful appeal. This is especially true because Costand  is not the most compelling or credible of Cosby’s alleged victims. The fact that he raped X, Y, and Z does not make the evidence that he raped AC any more or less credible. Past acts are prejudicial, and can inflame the jury; if this testimony didn’t inflame the jury, for example, it is flame-retardant:

Chelan Lasha was 17 in 1986 when she went to Bill Cosby’s suite at the Las Vegas Hilton, after, she said, he told her he could help with her modeling career.

She wet her hair to pose for modeling shots at Mr. Cosby’s request. Then he offered her what he said was an antihistamine to help her cold, and some almond liqueur. She took both, Ms. Lasha told a courtroom on Wednesday, because “I trusted him.”

Then, she said: “He laid me on the bed; I could not move any more after that. He kept pinching my breast and humping my leg. Waking up, I was naked.”

She said she heard him grunting, and with that, she imitated from the stand the sounds she said Mr. Cosby had made.

And when it was over, Ms. Lasha said, Mr. Cosby told her, “Daddy said wake up,” before pushing her out the door.

The courtroom at Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial was silent as Ms. Lasha provided her account, sometimes struggling to keep her composure. Then she looked across at the 80-year-old entertainer sitting at the defense table and called out: “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?

If Cosby had an atom of decency, or the ethics of a mollusk, he would plead guilty, issue an abject apology to everyone, including anyone who ever laughed at him or listed to his nostrums for the black community, and be accountable for his actions. Instead, he is at most going to claim that he made “grave errors in his assessment and perception of the situations.”


8 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 12, 2018: Mistakes, Senators, Survivors, The Pope And Cosby

  1. Instead, he is at most going to claim that he made “grave errors in his assessment and perception of the situations.”

    Active voice? No way. He’ll say ‘grave errors were made’ and conveniently leave out who it is that made those errors.

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