Ethical New Year!
1. Boy, am I slow. You can link to an Ethics Alarms article by using the Twitter link that every post has. This link works on Facebook, where EA has been banned with no explanation: I just tested it. So an interested reader clicks on that link, and is taken to a tweet that contains the Ethics Alarms link.
From now on, all posts will include the Twitter link to the post at the end.
2. Don Imus. The infamous “I-man,” Don Imus, died last week. He was one more example of the inherently unfair standard that shadows “shock jocks,” who are paid to be improvisational, outrageous, irreverent, and brave, but if they make one miscalculation and go too far (and what “too far” is changes quickly), their careers can end overnight. So it was that Imus and his on-air acolytes made demeaning and racially inflammatory comments mocking a college women’s basketball team, and Imus never recovered. That was even before social media mobs had reached their current strength. Imus was on AM radio and simulcast on TV; no shock jocks dare to do his act under such conditions now. They wouldn’t last a week. From his Times obituary:
Dick Cheney was “a war criminal,” Hillary Rodham Clinton was “Satan,” Oprah Winfrey “a fat phony,” Newt Gingrich “a man who would eat roadkill,” Ted Kennedy “a fat slob,” Steve Forbes “a meanspirited creep,” Dan Rather “a loony,” Rush Limbaugh “a drug-addled gas bag.”
…and everybody was “a weasel.” Imus was always sexist and overly fond of cheap ad hominem insults. I felt the eagerness with which politicians (like John McCain) and journalists (like David Gregory) eagerly pandered to Imus embarrassing, and Imus’s constant use of his radio show to promote his charities, kid’s ranch and family members boring and unethical. Other than his cruel attacks on innocent college girls, Imus will probably be best known for his much-condemned 1996 performance as host of the White House Correspondents Dinner at the peak of his popularity. How disrespectful he was to the President and others! So rude, so inappropriate!
Here’s the transcript. Compared to what Michelle Wolf was prepared to say with President Trump in the room at the 2018 dinner, Imus was a perfect gentlemen.
3. Since I’m now an expert in defamation thanks to a persistent ex-Ethics Alarms commenter, there is this…TV network OAN filed a lawsuit in September against Rachel Maddow for saying on the air, in reference to an OAN reporter (Kristian Rouz):
“In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right wing news outlet in America is really literally is paid Russian propaganda. Their on-air politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.”
Her lawyers’ defense, according to a recent motion is that “…the liberal host was clearly offering up her ‘own unique expression’ of her views to capture what she saw as the ‘ridiculous’ nature of the undisputed facts. Her comment, therefore, is a quintessential statement ‘of rhetorical hyperbole, incapable of being proved true or false.”
Based on my research (and my own successful defense) Maddow’s statement, if untrue, is classic defamation, falsely alluding to undisclosed “facts” that a reasonable reader would assume exists. Expert witness professor Stefan Thomas Gries, a UC Santa Barbara linguistics, testified for the plaintiff stating, “It is very unlikely that an average or reasonable/ordinary viewer would consider the sentence in question to be a statement of opinion.”
4. And now, the rest of the story…Remember that post about the Florida lawyer who posted a video of himself chasing a stowaway raccoon off his boat and into open water? The Florida bar was investigating the incident, which he foolishly posted on YouTube, and deciding whether he should be disciplined. The verdict is in: He just has to complete a $750 professionalism course, according to the recommendation by the Florida Bar.
Somebody explain to me how such a course will teach proper stowaway raccoon procedures. But I’m sure the bar will put that $750 to good use…
5. Another wonderful policy innovation by California has the predictable disastrous results. BUT it does mitigate “over-incarceration ,” so it’s a success, I guess.
A few years ago, California passed several laws aimed at emptying the jails and prisons, ideally of as many African-American as possible. Proposition 47, “the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, decriminalized a number of non-violent offenses, including retail theft. aka “shoplifting.” The law raised the value of the amount of merchandise someone could steal to $950 while still only being charged with a misdemeanot.
Guess what happened. Oo! Oo! First guess who championed the measure!
Why, that soon to be President Kamala Harris!
The law has led to steadily increasing incidents of organized robbery across the state. “Mass grab and dash” thefts involve gangs of young people all entering a store at the same time, filling their arms with merchandise and dashing back out to waiting cars. The thefts are rising, but arrests and prosecutions are down.
California Retailers Association president Rachel Michelin asserted that shoplifting is “becoming a public safety issue for consumers.”… [B]lack market dealers will cross state lines into California, knowing the state’s authorities will go easy on them if caught. “They know what they’re doing. They will bring in calculators and get all the way up to the $950 limit,” she said. She added that “one person will go into a store, fill up their backpack, come out, dump it out and go right back in and do it all over again.”
Michelin described video footage from California Retailers Association members that was “completely insane.”
They will go into a grocery store, steal alcohol and walk out the front door with it. They know no one is going to prosecute them. The district attorneys aren’t.… Law enforcement [officials] are trying to protect the streets and then they might do a sting and arrest a bunch of people but then the district attorney will drop it or downgrade the charges.
Another consequence of Prop 47: Criminal fences are using children to do their dirty work for them, knowing children are lower on prosecutors’ priorities lists.
“There are folks that are using and exploiting children,” said Michelin. “But I also think that teenagers know that there are no consequences anymore. It’s part of a game. If you get caught, all you have to do is get out of the store.”
Additionally, because California bans single-use plastic shopping bags, many state shoppers put merchandise in a purse or backpack or carry it in their hands — making it easy for shoplifters to blend in with paying customers.