Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/26/19: The “What’s Going On Here?” Edition

Hello, Spring!

1. On the down side, “The Smollett Report” Explain this one: Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett announced today that all charges against him have been dropped.Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was attacked by two men. The two men were found and implicated Smollett, and the evidence that it was hoax appeared overwhelming.  A minimum condition of dropping cases requires some acceptance of responsibility, but the actor still professes that he’s innocent. “I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he said.

What’s going on here? I have no idea, but the word “Chicago” keeps popping up in my head.”

2. Talk about a parallel universe! I had never seen this [Pointer: Althouse]: President Obama’s statement after the 2016 election:

“You take the baton, you run your best race, and hopefully, by the time you hand it off, you’re a little further ahead. You made a little progress. I want to make sure that hand-off is well executed because, ultimately, we’re all on the same team….

Everybody is sad when their side loses an election, but the day after, we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first.

This was a long and hard-fought campaign. A lot of our fellow Americans are exultant today. A lot of Americans are less so, but that’s the nature of campaigns. That’s the nature of democracy. It is hard and sometimes contentious and noisy. It’s not always inspiring.”

“Sometimes you lose an argument. Sometimes you lose an election. We try really hard to persuade people that we’re right, and then people vote, and then we lose. We learn from our mistakes. We do some reflection. We lick our wounds. We brush ourselves off. We get back in the arena. We go at it. We try even harder the next time.”

What a gracious, note-perfect statement! Then his party and followers went out and began protesting, carrying signs that said “Not our President!,” concocting impeachment theories, tried to rig the Electoral College, and boycotted the Inauguration. And they were just getting started…

What was going on here? Surely Obama had enough power and influence in the party to persuade Democrats not to act like spoiled and petty jack-asses in the wake of Trump’s victory…or did he? Or was this a fake, with Obama orchestrating “the resistance” behind the scenes? It would be hard to imagine a larger gap between a party leader’s exhortation to his followers to be ethical, and how they responded.

3.  Whatever going on here, it’s stupid. On March 1, San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer was caught on video having a loud, public argument with his wife during which he tried take his cell phone out of her hands, which caused her to fall off of her chair and to the floor as she screamed “help me!” Even though he and his wife made public statements explaining the episode as an embarrassing but insignificant  episode, spousal abuse activists decided to target Baer, and the San Francisco Chronicle  decided that this was worthy of an editorial calling for Baer to be punished by Major League Baseball. So, naturally, MLB complied.

Baer has been suspended without pay through July 1.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports, I’m sure with great satisfaction, that after his suspension, Baer may return as CEO but will no longer will not be in charge of his baseball operations staff.  He will also be required to undergo an evaluation by an expert to determine an appropriate treatment and counseling plan.

You know when civil libertarians were protesting the increase in surveillance cameras in urban areas? Never mind: now the whole world is a surveillance camera, with eager spies just waiting to catch you misbehaving. By all accounts, the Baer’s got into a momentary clash in which she grabbed his cell phone at a restaurant, she  wouldn’t give it back, he grabbed it, she lost her balance and fell out her chair. It wasn’t a crime or an assault, and her fall (and what she shouted) are irrelevant and moral luck. The Chronicle’s grandstanding editorial made the ridiculous claim that fans and kids look to baseball team owners as role models. The players are indeed paid heroes; the owners are not, and never have been. A simple apology to his team and its fans should have been sufficient. MLB’s punishment is grotesquely out of proportion to the offense.

On the plus side, now owners know not to try to take their cell phones back when their wives grab it in a restaurant.

4. What’s going on here? Schadenfreude! The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan  filed extortion charges against Michael Avenatti, the cocky and obnoxious lawyer who  represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Trump. Avenatti was also indicted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles on wire fraud and banking charges this week, and was arrested in Manhattan today. The indictment accuses Avenatti  of attempting to extract more than $20 million in payments from Nike by “threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.”

Yes, that sounds like Avenatti.

How quickly they forget: Avenatti had already been arrested since he tried to leverage his slimy legal machinations into a political career. What I wrote in a November post after that arrest can be fairly repeated here:

Of course, Avenatti is not guilty of anything. This is an allegation only, at this point. And the fact that he tried to pile on to the politically-generated accusations against Brett Kavanaugh by endorsing the incredible claims by a woman, Juile Swetnick, connecting Kavanaugh to “gang rapes,” claims that she later contradicted and that are now the subject of an FBI investigation into possible felonies by both Swetnick and Avenatti, doesn’t mean he should not have the right to the presumption of innocence that he tried to deny Justice Kavanaugh.

 

31 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/26/19: The “What’s Going On Here?” Edition

      • So much great news this weekend, AND the Green New Deal goes down in fossil-fueled flames? I really think the Schadenfreude might kill me. Smollett getting off the hook doesn’t dampen my mood at all.

        • I’m with you, Kyjo. Yet there remains an underlying qualm I’m doing my best to ignore; feeling a modicum of guilt for enjoying the misfortunes (albeit intentional/self-inflicted misfires) of others.

          It’s almost too much to resist.

          Almost…

  1. RE: No. 1; Jussie Smollett.

    Alright. I am confused. He said two white guys beat him up, poured bleach all over him, and tied a noose around his neck, all the while exclaiming that “this is MAGA town!” Then, the police did its job and determined that he, in fact, invented the whole thing. He was indicted on 16 felony counts. The US attorney is mulling (“Muellering”?) wire and postal charges for filing a false report because he allegedly sent himself mean letters containing a white powder. As a condition of his not-gullty plea, he posted a $10,000 bond.

    Now, just today, the SA Kim Foxx, dropped all charges on the condition that Smollett forfeit his bond. There is no admission of guilt or responsibility, and the court records have been sealed (SEALED!) on an emergency basis. If he is not guilty, or there is not enough evidence (aside from the testimony of the two bozos he paid $1500, sales receipts for the items used in the caper, video of the bozos purchasing the items, and oh, did I mention the bozos’ testimony before the grand jury?) and the district attorney dropped all the charges, why does he have to forfeit the bond? The bond secures attendance at trial. The charges are dropped so there won’t be a trial. What gives?

    Does anyone find this whole episode even remotely understandable, aside from the obvious that it’s Chicago and Smollett knows lots of connected people? I get that his lawyers did a masterful job defending him – kudos to them. Yet, doesn’t this send a message that there are at least judicial systems? One for the well-connected and wealthy, and one for the rest of society? The police chief is furious, as are Rahm Emanuel (!) and David Axelrod (!!). When was the last time you saw something like that?

    jvb

    • This one is past me. If the charges are dropped, however, there is no with or without prejudice involved. Unless I miss my guess, the next Grand Jury could indict him on the same charges. No trial, no double jeopardy. And who is the 10 grand forfeited to…the prosecutor? Like you said, Jack, Chicago.

  2. How can one have all charges dropped and have his bond forfeited? If charges are dropped against me I want my case bond back. If all charges are dropped then there cannot be a punishment. As for his volunteerism strikes me as a Kings Pass rationalization.

    I understand Michelle Obama’s chief of staff had been in contact with Foxx regarding this matter. So should we entertain a charge of obstruction of justice charge? Finally, I am not convinced Rahm is as outraged as he appears.

    • It does smell to high heaven. He agreed to do community service and forfeit bail, but still professes his innocence? And he’s not even a first time offender!! It makes no sense at all.

      • My understanding was that his prior volunteerism sufficed for community service hence the kings pass reference.

        • His past volunteerism was working a few days for Jesse Jackson’s Ranibow Coalition. Hardly a longstanding record.

      • Forfeiting bail stinks. Stinks of a shakedown/bribe. However, he is presumed innocent. If the State believed its case, it should not have made this deal. If it did not believe it’s case, it should not have extorted the bond.

        No matter how you want to divide up fault, in any analysis, the State is unethical. You don’t bargain with someone you believe is innocent and you don’t take a bribe from a guilty party.

        No matter how you cut it, the State is wrong.

        -Jut

    • More sounds-like-conspiracy-but-also-looks-like-exactly-what-happened stuff:

      Foxx, convinced by Michelle Obama’s aide, tried to have the police drop the case and turn the whole thing over to the FBI (this was what Smollett’s family wanted, because the FBI rarely makes evidence public during an investigation.) Foxx recused herself because of the conflict of interest. Now she has un-recused herself and dropped all the charges, AND sealing the records, which means the Feds can’t see them. The police who did hundreds of hours of work on this case (and didn’t have much choice, since not taking the case seriously enough would have led to progressive agitating and likely riots) now have had all that worked flushed down the drain, as Smollett claims innocence (NO one else is actually even daring to claim that.)

      Smollett is close to the Obamas and also Kamala Harris. Did we really think a wealthy gay celebrity pal of the ruling class would go to prison in Obama’s city? I’ve got a space at USC available for you for just 10 million.

      Smollett’s “community service” consisted of about 16 hours of being a guest speaker at some LGBT center, working at their bookstore, and talking to kids. In case you thought that a celebrity would be caught cleaning litter off the streets or something. That plus 10,000 dollars will get you complete exoneration and burial of the mountains of evidence against you. Meanwhile, poor black kids are serving long jail sentences for much, much, less.

      • Details are wrong in my comment above. Smollett actually volunteered for Jesse Jackson’s nonprofit. And apparently Foxx technically didn’t un-recuse herself; her replacement dropped the charges…but it was still “her office” that made the statements?

        And oh man, mayor Emanuel is mad. It’s like he’s shocked that Chicago is corrupt or something. This is so weird. And I won’t even touch the Soros stuff.

      • The police who did hundreds of hours of work on this case (and didn’t have much choice, since not taking the case seriously enough would have led to progressive agitating and likely riots) now have had all that worked flushed down the drain, as Smollett claims innocence (NO one else is actually even daring to claim that.)

        There is another ramification here: The Chicago police are said to be racist and to have lots of problems in their relationship to the Black community. Since the police stated that they really did have a case against Smollett, and discovered that everything he said was not true, but the State dropped all the charges, this will not resound well in the police community.

        And, if indeed this police department already has race problems and does not treat the Black community fairly (this is said to be the case), this case-dropping will lead to conflicts in the future because it will exacerbate resentment.

  3. 1. Smollett

    What’s going on here? I have no idea, but the word “Chicago” keeps popping up in my head.”

    Same here. Corruption is the Chicago way, and I guess nothing has happened over the decades to change that.

    Interesting but not necessarily related: I have seen reported that George Soros contributed over 400K to Foxx’s campaign.

    2. Obama and the 2016 election

    It would be hard to imagine a larger gap between a party leader’s exhortation to his followers to be ethical, and how they responded.

    Indeed. Puzzling.

    But perhaps Obama was never “left enough” for the post-2016 Democrats. The outrage probably forced them to reveal themselves fully.

    One thing’s for sure — they didn’t take his words to heart at all. In fact, if he spoke them now, I imagine he’d be shouted down like Andrew Sullivan was recently by the Left.

    4. Avenatti

    Of course, Avenatti is not guilty of anything. This is an allegation only, at this point.

    From the evidence so far presented, this is as close to a slam dunk as you’re ever likely to see. They have him on tape extorting Nike in no uncertain terms. From SI’s Michael McCann:

    Avenatti is on the recording saying, “I’m not f—— around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games . . . You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem. And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me. I’m just being really frank with you . . . I’m not f—— around with this thing anymore . . . I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap. But I’m not f—— around.”

    After making the threat, Avenatti made good on it, and tweeted out to the general public damaging information about Nike.

    This looks like a cut-and-dried Hobbs Act violation to me. It also looks like the SDNY AUSA was very restrained in his charges. There are plenty of predicate acts to support a RICO charge. But I must say, I am really glad they didn’t throw that in, because it is an abused statute.

    All of which tells me the feds know they have him cold. This crime is only “alleged” in the strictest legal sense, and I’m not even discussing the separate indictment from the feds in California.

      • Heh. Truth. But then again, the other shoe hasn’t quite dropped on that one.

        Having said that, prosecutorial misconduct, even in the reverse of the normal definition, isn’t going to help Avenatti much. Nike has a brutal cause of civil action against him, and then there is that other indictment. Also, I suspect we’ll see a superseding indictment out of SDNY alleging other crimes in the case. This indictment was the product of haste.

        It’s always possible he may not be found guilty by a jury, or even plead. But that doesn’t change the reality that the conduct is a crime, conviction, plea, or not. You have repeatedly said that OJ Simpson was a murderer. That’s because he was. Avenatti is an extortionist, because that’s what he is.

  4. 3. The day before yesterday I had a woman (who regularly smokes weed in her SUV near our house & then drives after) pop out of her vehicle & berate me about picking up after my dogs. The wacky thing is I always do & she’s knows it because of how frequently she’s smoking & sees me walking dogs. Anyway…

    After pausing, then calmly asking if she’d rather talk than yell at me from 10 ft. away, she grabbed her phone & started filming me. As I walked away she kept yelling “I thought you wanted to talk.” Besides her being high & clearly not of sound mind, I couldn’t figure out what made her want to film me. I guess this is just what people do now to intimidate others. What’s disturbing is that situations could be recorded, misconstrued & widely distributed on social media.

    Perhaps we don’t need to worry about a government surveillance state if we’re already doing it to each other. We live in icky times.

    • We need to subvert the prevailing narrative. We could produce a channel of YouTube videos featuring people filming fights they’ve picked themselves and losing tremendously to hilarious effect. Imagine a world in which the sound of a stoner’s slow, classless voice behind a cell-phone camera feed produced an anticipation in the viewer that the comparatively normal person being filmed was about to break the phone on the sidewalk before any particulars of the situation even materialized. Imagine the commenters gleefully discussing what they think took place after the phone breakage, “That crybully weedpuffer got his teeth knocked in!” We could build this world. We have bricks and steel in abundance. Save the narrative, save the nation. The mindless idiots follow nothing else, and, this being a useless republic and all, we’re reduced like animals to needing their votes.

      • “We need to subvert the prevailing narrative. We could produce a channel of YouTube videos featuring people filming fights they’ve picked themselves and losing tremendously to hilarious effect.”

        I’m with you’s guys….so long as it allows classics like the Clash of the Beta Male TITANS

  5. 1. Maybe the prosecutor needed a new ivory back scratcher?
    2. I’ve never read that, either. Maybe it was buried in all the post-election grief and angst?
    3. Domestic violence advocates actually point to phone confiscation as abusive behavior. But, of course, the person withholding the phone this time was a woman.
    4. I don’t have Twitter, but my husband does and he follows Popehat. A couple of weeks ago, Avenatti trolled Ken on Twitter for a few hours. It was pretty pathetic, but, as Ken held his own, it was actually funny, too. I believe Avenatti capable of anything at this point.

  6. Something that’s bugged me about Smollett that I was thinking about today: has any actual conservative EVER uttered the phrase “this is maga country”? I don’t recall ever seeing it prior to the hoax, but it sounds like the sort of thing members of the resistance would imagine a Trump supporter would say. The left has (on the whole although exceptions exist) made it clear they don’t understand their opposition’s beliefs at all.

  7. On the plus side, now owners know not to try to take their cell phones back when their wives grab it in a restaurant.

    I did once hear of a wife who formed the habit of turning off the car keys and throwing them out of the window when she was arguing with her husband while he was driving, so forcing him to pull over and become a captive audience. Then, one day after qualifying, he took her flying…

  8. Jack,

    this is unrelated to the main blog post, but have your heard the recent news about the passing of Articles 11 & 13 into law that just occurred in the EU?

    Article 11, or what’s come to be known as the “link tax,” requires web platforms to obtain a license to link to or use snippets of news articles.

    Article 13, requires a web platform to make their “best efforts” to obtain licenses to copyrighted material before it is uploaded to their platforms and changes the current standard of requiring platforms to simply comply with copyright takedown requests.

    Any thoughts?

  9. 2 — Given this was the day after the election it sounds like Obama had a staffer prepare a “good sportsmanship” speech, probably before the election, just in case Trump won. Nice speech, as Obama was wont to give, but the follow through was not there. A microcosm of eight years — if Obama had lived up to his occasionally unifying/centrist speeches, there would not been no need for a “good sportsmanship” speech.

  10. What was going on here? Surely Obama had enough power and influence in the party to persuade Democrats not to act like spoiled and petty jack-asses in the wake of Trump’s victory…or did he? Or was this a fake, with Obama orchestrating “the resistance” behind the scenes? It would be hard to imagine a larger gap between a party leader’s exhortation to his followers to be ethical, and how they responded.

    I suspect the latter.

    These Democrats sure did not turn against Obama; in fact, they still defend his record.

    Here is a comment on a news article describing what they are doing.

    http://www.cleveland.com/darcy/2019/03/trump-barr-and-mueller-not-exonerated-darcy-cartoon.html#vf-10762400018464

    This is the Democrat version of “the stab in the back” used by the German ultra-rightwing to explain Germany’s defeat in WWI.
    It doesn’t have to be true. It just has to shift blame.

    – Chris Morton

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