Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/11/2019: Smears, Excuses And Betrayals

Ethics Alarms wishes you the best this morning…

1. How low can they go? NBC News published a 1768-word article this week examining Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s slave-holding  ancestors.

The 1850 and 1860 censuses reveal that between them, two of the Kentucky Senators’ great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned at least 14 slaves in Alabama.The article’s apparent objective is to suggest that  Sen. McConnell’s ancestors may have influenced his policy positions, implying that he is racist by blood.

Nah, there’s no mainstream news media bias!

Asked about his ancestors in a press conference, McConnell pointed out that Barack Obama also has slave-holding  relatives in his family tree. Mitch was nicer than I would have been. I yield to no one in my dislike for the Senate Leader, but this is a self-evident smear ny NBC, a blatant “guilt by association” ploy with the damning associations being with people McConnell never knew.

Have you no sense of decency, NBC, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

In full disclosure, my father’s mother’s family, also from Kentucky, owned slaves. One of them, a housekeeper, continued to be employed by the family, and my grandmother cared for her in the woman’s old age, as a permanent guest and companion until she died.

Amazingly, this did not make me a fan of Mitch McConnell.

2. I’m STUNNED! Well, no, actually I knew this more than 30 years ago, when I oversaw a non-partisan study on the issue. From NPR:

Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would increase the pay of at least 17 million people, but also put 1.3 million Americans out of work, according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office released on Monday.

The increased federal minimum could also raise the wages of another 10 million workers and lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty, according to the nonpartisan CBO. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and last increased a decade ago.

The budget watchdog’s report comes ahead of next week’s vote in the House of Representatives on a bill to gradually raise the federal minimum to $15 an hour by 2024.

The minimum wage is an example of the Left’s “Don’t confuse us with facts, our minds are made up!” orientation when it comes to thoroughly debunked socialist cant. It’s pretty simple: when the compensation required for  certain jobs outweigh the value of those jobs, the jobs disappear. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the author of  the Raise the Wage Act, argued that the benefits in CBO’s forecast far outweighed the costs. Tell that to the restaurant owners who will have to close up shop, and the 1.3 million who lose their jobs, Bobby. All for the greater good!

Politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who push a massive minimum wage increase are counting on the public’s ignorance, as in other issues.

3. Secretary Acosta didn’t resign. He still should. Alexander Acosta, Trump’s labor secretary, used yesterday’s press conference not to resign as some predicted, but to defend his handling of a sex crimes case against sex predator financier Jeffrey Epstein over a decade ago. I was not impressed.

He said that prosecuting Epstein would have been “rolling the dice.” Maybe so, but the special conditions of the case were paramount: Epstein was a super-rich, super-connected defendant with ties to powerful figures like Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton. For him to be seen as getting a virtual rap on the wrist (“BAD Jeffrey! BAD! Sexually abusing over 40 under-age women! BAD BAD BAD! Go to your room!”) undermines public faith in the justice system, and properly so. Remember, he not only got a deal that sent him  to the relatively cushy confines of Palm Beach County jail (rather than a prison) for 13 months, he was permitted to participate in a work-release program that allowed him to go to his office six days a week for up to 12 hours a day.

Responding to Acosta’s dubious defense yesterday, Barry Krischer, the former top prosecutor for Palm Beach County, said that Acosta was trying to “rewrite history” by suggesting that he approved the plea deal because he feared state prosecutors were going to be even more lenient toward Mr. Epstein. “I can emphatically state that Mr. Acosta’s recollection of this matter is completely wrong,”  Krischer said in a statement. “Federal prosecutors do not take a back seat to state prosecutors. That’s not how the system works in the real world.” If  Acosta believed the state deal was so terrible, he should have filed a federal indictment instead of conducting “secret negotiations,” Krischer said.

One of the impediments to a conviction in trial that Acosta cited yesterday was that the victims were afraid to testify. Adam Horowitz, a lawyer who represented some of the victims, said  yesterday that the Labor Secretary was being disingenuous, and that the young women were terrified  because the prosecutors had terrified them.

“The prosecutors were saying, ‘These defense lawyers are going to go through your whole personal life, dig up your bad acts and your sex life. When they heard that from prosecutors, sure, they were intimidated,”  Horowitz said. “They kept saying, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’” His implication is that prosecutors were doing the all-star defense team’s bidding by undermining their own case. Spencer Kuvin, a lawyer for three of the victims, said that all three gave depositions and were “willing and ready” to testify.

Finally, there is the basic ethical issue of accountability. Prosecutors allowed Epstein’s lawyers to talk them into a ridiculously lenient plea deal with minimal prison time for a privileged criminal and sexual predator with endless resources and a high likelihood of recidivism. It was completely predictable that he would continue to harm women after his release, and the new charges against Epstein show that he did exactly as expected.

It is appropriate that someone’s head roll for this, and Acosta’s is the logical choice. [Facts: New York Times]

4. Ex-baseball pitcher and authorJim Bouton, 80, died yesterday. The Times obituary calls him “a celebrated iconoclast” who “left a lasting mark on baseball as the author of ‘Ball Four’ a raunchy, shrewd, irreverent — and best-selling — player’s diary that tainted the game’s wholesome image.”

There are two ethics points to be made here. First, Bouton betrayed his team mates by publishing their private conversations and observed conduct in a book without their permission, and profiting greatly as a result. “Ball Four” was per se unethical, no matter how entertaining it was for readers.

Second, any journalist who covered Major League baseball could have written  the equivalent of “Ball Four” over many decades before Bouton did, except that they would have written it better, and they would have been doing their jobs as journalists.

Finding his career as a player winding down, Jim Bouton decided to cash in at his friends’ expense. He lived out the rest of his life as a pariah in baseball, and deserved that fate.

32 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/11/2019: Smears, Excuses And Betrayals

  1. 1. Well, NBC’s position would probably be that the only decent thing to do is to make every argument, point out every fact, and suppress every counter-argument to get McConnell, Trump, and the Republicans out of power.

    NBC has clearly taken the position that Democrats have the superior positions for the country, and that the patriotic thing for them to do is to help them get full control of the government.

    Also, they get lots of clicks running stories like this. Maybe that had something to do with it…

    2. The Left doesn’t care. They are trying to buy the election with promises of money. It’s frank bribery, but it’s nothing new in either Democrat or Republican politics.

    Don’t ask them about the consequences. Consequences don’t apply to Democrat policies.

    3. I’m less sure of this than I was, and this:

    It was completely predictable that he would continue to harm women after his release, and the new charges against Epstein show that he did. It is appropriate that someone’s head roll for this, and Acosta’s is the logical choice.

    … sounds more like scapegoating than accountability. “Somebody must pay” is not convincing to me.

    If Acosta did something professionally irresponsible, I’ll agree 100%. I am convinced, however, that the story has been manipulated to get him because of his association with Trump. That makes me less comfortable calling for his head. I am not inclined to accept the word of Horowitz or Kirschner, they are too closely involved and have something to lose if Acosta story is more true than disingenuous.

    More facts, please. There should be a clear paper trail.

    • Epstein hobnobbed with the elite and influential for decades. With his own private jet, private island, and – allegedly – a stable of underage sex toys. I think the real manipulation is going to lie in whom they don’t go after, not in whom they do.

      • That could be so. I know what you’re thinking, and it should be pretty interesting to see how that aspect works out.

    • But someone must pay, Glenn. Society cannot tolerate a shrug and a “it’s nobody’s fault” when the harm is bad enough. I absolutely believe in that military principle—it’s utilitarianism, pure and simple. Unfair for the individual, best for the system. Pearl Harbor, the Titanic, Abu Graib, Pickett’s Charge.

      • But someone must pay, Glenn. Society cannot tolerate a shrug and a “it’s nobody’s fault” when the harm is bad enough.

        It can tolerate “it’s nobody’s fault” when the facts show that it was, in fact, nobody’s fault.

        Unfair for the individual, best for the system. Pearl Harbor, the Titanic, Abu Graib, Pickett’s Charge.

        When it comes to determining fault, even the appearance of unfairness must be avoided.
        “Someone must pay” was how the Central Park 5 served sentences far in excess of what they had actually done.

        Maybe you should watch “When They See Us” to find out the consequences of the idea that “someone must pay”.

      • In this case Jack, why are we scapegoating the single prosecutor who ever actually managed to lay a glove on Epstein? I understand your point that it was obvious further harm was inevitable, but in that case the time to protest the deal that Acosta made was when the deal was made, not when it turns out to be politically expedient. Are we also going to go after Epstein’s lawyers for getting the best deal possible for their client, knowing that he was guilty as sin and likely to continue on with his vices? How about other prosecutors and investigators in whose jurisdictions Epstein was obviously continuing to exploit minors (since we’re accepting that his inevitable recidivism should have been obvious to Acosta)? How about the elite who continued to have no problem rubbing shoulders with him in the years between then and now?

        Personally, I believe that Epstein’s head is the one that should roll. Better that it should have rolled years ago, agreed, but we’re here now, and he’s the one who’s broken the law and caused the harm. Acosta should have done a better job, but demanding his blood only at this late date smacks of political theater to me.

        • See, this is where I am confused: Are there new allegations of bad acts? I understand that he may have had a trove of “sassy” pictures and websites on his computer, but he was not required to register as a sex offender (right?), he was not prohibited from accessing “” (right?), and from what I read, the New York DOJ fellow did not state that Epstein violated any of his plea deal. In fact, the Southern District DOJ guy was emphatic that Epstein complied with the terms and conditions of his release, cushy as they were. And remember, this was a plea deal when Acosta was AG under the Obama Administration and was entered into in 2011.

          Epstein is a creep and most probably an awful human being but this smacks of selective prosecution, targeting someone because of his association to powerful people, and because he has ties to Trump (which Trump does not deny) and Acosta, who is now Trump’s Labor Secretary. Acosta should be criticized for being out-lawyered by Epstein legal team – there is plenty to assail him for the shoddy and incompetent work done on the initial prosecution. But, Epstein’s legal team did their job.

          “Someone must pay” is a dangerous policy position. We are reviewing a 2011 plea deal approved by the trial court. The reason this is back in the news is because an appellate court said that the plea deal was not appropriate because the victims did not get a chance to voice their positions on what had been negotiated in good faith with the US government and Epstein’s legal team. That is very different from some kind of cover up to hide Epstein’s crimes and prosecute Epstein for current or recent criminal activity.


      • Utilitarian it may be, but my ethical system finds it appalling. Is it best for our society? That’s a debate worth having, and I can grudgingly admit that loss of a cabinet position is not a high price to pay.

        I find it no less disturbing for all that, however. Society should be mature enough at some point to understand that the blame can often be so dilute as to escape easy placement. But perhaps I’m just being as fanciful as a Democrat in that hope.

    • Glenn, the ‘facts’ came from the New York Times… and thus should be viewed with more than a bit of suspicion. This paper has lied more about Trump (as in, make shit up) in the past three years than I have taken showers.

      They will say anything to smear President Trump or anyone remotely related to him.

  2. There’s a bigger problem with the whole argument from slaveholding ancestors. That problem is the long history of sexual exploitation of slaves by slave owners, which in many cases produced children – children who in that time, and even today, would be counted as black.

    Combine that with waves of European immigration that happened after Reconstruction, and I would wager that it’s more common for African Americans to have slave-owning ancestors than Whites.

    • Your point is interesting. This comes in response to McConnell’s rejection of reparations – he objects to them because he may have to pay them. By the way, since when did we visit the sins of our forebears on the present descendants?

      The slaveholding ancestry issue is also making its way through the news cycle because Turtle Neck Man has a potentially strong challenger for his Senate seat. She is well-liked in the media and is a progressive, so anything that smears McConnell and his legacy is good for her candidacy.


  3. Wow – #2 sent me on a rabbit hole understanding differences in coverage of Fed Minimum wage and State Minimum wage. There are states with no minimum wage law and Fed doesn’t kick in until your business has $500k in revenues -or- engages in interstate commerce.

    Then I had my conception that Colorado’s minimum wage was a simple and straight $11.10 an hour…but it’s not.

    Click to access Minimum%20Wage%20Order%2035%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

    $11.10/hr applies to private sector employers and employees in Colorado in the following 4 industries:
    1. Retail and Service 2. Commercial Support Service
    3. Food and Beverage 4. Health and Medical
    Does not apply to public sector employers, independent contractors, a variety of other industries
    such as construction, manufacturing, wholesale.

    Unemancipated minors can be paid $9.44/hr

  4. Here is an article worth writing about.

    But a licensing process can go way further: While a background check is more often than not quick and hassle-free, gun licensing in, for example, Massachusetts is a weeks- or months-long process that requires submitting a photograph and fingerprints, passing a training course, and going through one or more interviews, all involving law enforcement. That adds significant barriers for even a would-be gun owner who has no ill intent or bad history. (emphasis added)

    I wonder if this Lopez punk would laud laws for putting up significant barriers to having an abortion or voting.

    That could require rethinking the Second Amendment, whether by appointing judges who interpret it differently in a reverse version of the NRA’s campaign to portray gun ownership as an individual right.

    So this Lopez punk believes judges could de facto repeal the Second Amendment.

    Remember, this is the same Lopez punk who wrote this.

    Obtaining this permit is a potentially weeks-long process, which requires paperwork, an interview, a background check, and, even if you pass all of that, the police chief has some discretion to deny the license anyway — if he or she, for example, knows something about your past that may not necessarily show up in your criminal record.

    and yet, the Lopez punk also wrote this.

    Another potential parallel comes through what Matt Yglesias has described for Vox as the “Great Awokening.” Since 2014, he wrote, “white liberals have moved so far to the left on questions of race and racism that they are now, on these issues, to the left of even the typical black voter.” That happened in part because of the Black Lives Matter movement that took off after the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri, protests, but also because “Democratic elites were beginning to signal to the rank and file that they should take systemic racism concerns more seriously” — such as when President Barack Obama remarked that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon [Martin].”

    Lopez is clearly ignoring systemic racism concerns.

    Maybe he should try being woke.

  5. 4. My late, greatly lamented best friend and college room mate for two of our four years LOVED “Ball Four.” He sent me a copy he’d had Bouton sign underneath “Hey, the old roufus-goofus!” my friend’s favorite line from the book. I tried to read “Ball Four” but only made it through a few pages. I was fifty pages or so into the book, and it was still spring training in Tempe, AZ. Ugh. I found the book basically unreadable.

    • It was especially unreadable if you were familiar with the work of Jim Brosnan, an earlier MLB pitcher-journalist who could actually write. His “Pennant Race” and “The Long Season” are both excellent.

      • To me, Ball Four was brilliant if also unethical. I did feel sorry for his teammates and coaches who believed, rightly, that they were in an environment where “what is said here, stays here.”

        I read Ball Four in the college library between classes. I’m not one for outward expressions of hilarity but I got several looks when I inadvertently laughed out loud. I remember because that hadn’t happened before or since.

  6. Thanks for the Brit advert. How cute is that girl? Who is she? Did she go on to have a career in acting? Looks like Mrs. OB, back before electricity. I’ve never understood why all women don’t wear bangs.

    Jingles are so powerful. Why don’t advertisers use them any more?

    • I notice they didn’t use the “with a K-E-L-L-O-double-good, Kellogg’s the best to you!” that was so much a part of the U.S. version.

  7. I try to lurk and not comment too much. Most of the time, people here State my opinions much more succinctly than I can currently.

    That said, I can’t stay quiet on this. Fifteen dollars an hour as minimum wage won’t raise people out of poverty. It will only make poverty at a higher wage.

    Prices of every day goods you must have will go up. I don’t see how this is completely overlooked. I hope it is because it is just missed and overlooked and not ignored on purpose. This only hurts those who are borderline like my wife and myself.

    I am so upset by this that I can’t even form a coherent thought. I just wait to unload against those who actually want this. We have overwhelming proof that this destroys the economy.

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