Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/11/2020: Epstein And Facebook And Barr, Oh My!

It’s Thaturday!

Time, once again, to salute the courage of Karen Carpenter’s much less talented brother Richard, who nonetheless had the courage to offer, as his only notable solo offering for the Carpenters, a song that highlighted his speech impediment. Why did he do this? We’ll never know.

And yes, I have “The Wizard of Oz” on the brain. It was so much better when that wonderful movie was only on TV once  a year: then it was special. Now, especially over the holidays (and what it has to do with Christmas, I don’t know) I had to repeatedly change channels to avoid it. Well, after Judy sang “Over the Rainbow, anyway…

1. Is it really so unreasonable and a “right wing conspiracy theory” to wonder about how Jeffrey Epstein, who could have implicated such powerful people as Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew in criminal activities, ended up dead in his cell?

The latest forehead-slapping development: The video  made outside of Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan jail cell when during his failed suicide attempt seemed to be missing, and even possibly destroyed. The jailhouse video turned up, however, muting suspicions about whether Epstein’s successful  suicide at the Metropolitan Correctional Center wasn’t something more sinister.  Prosecutors confirmed that the video had been saved. This week, however,  prosecutors revealed that the jail staff  had preserved video from the wrong jail cell, and the Epstein footage no longer existed.

Meanwhile, two guards who were on duty when  Epstein killed himself are being charged with falsifying records and conspiracy. The guards surfed the internet and dozed instead of checking on the prisoner every half-hour, as they were required to do.

Conspiracy or not, this is epic incompetence, and rather convenient incompetence at that. Hanlon’s Razor, however, applies. I guess.

My only other observation is that government efficiency and job performance is obviously so reliable that I don’t know why Bernie Sanders isn’t running away with the Democratic nomination race. Of course we should put government employees in charge of our lives. It’s a no-brainer.

2. Facebook, Ethics Hero. Did I really write that? Facebook confirmed this week that it would continue to allow both partiesto use the platform to target campaign ads ads to components the electorate, and would not attempt police the accuracy of the messages sent out.

Good. Ethics Alarms has held all along that Facebook (as well as YouTube, Twitter, Google and other platforms) could not be trusted to decide what was sufficiently true to allow in political ads. This is a pure fairness, free speech and access to information issue; it shouldn’t be a partisan issue at all. Democrats, however, are so confident that the “factcheckers” Facebook would employ to vet political ads are biased their way (See Snopes) that they have been pressuring Facebook to get with the program, the program being “throw obstacles in the way of conservatives and Republicans trying to get their messages out.”

“Facebook is paying for its own glowing fake news coverage, so it’s not surprising they’re standing their ground on letting political figures lie to you,” Democratic Party Head Demagogue Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter.Warren assumes that her lies, which are constant and epic, would slip though any fair vetting system.

Facebook can’t do this job ethically, so it won’t do the job at all, and relay on voters to check facts themselves, as they ought to anyway.

3. A partisan political prosecution is foiled by the Constitution. New York’s criminal charges against Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, were dismissed by a Manhattan Supreme Court justice this week. Manafort is already serving s already serving a seven and a half year federal prison sentence for fraud, and  Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. was prosecuting a case against Manafort on the same facts so that if the President issued a pardon for the federal charges, Manafort could be kept in prison. The court ruled that the plan violates the Constitutional provision against Double Jeopardy, which is does.

Part of the nefarious multi-level efforts to cripple the Trump Presidency has been to make it clear that anyone who works for the President or his Administration will be targeted for ruinous investigations and prosecutions. Have you ever heard of a prosecution based on the fact that the target might be the recipient of a pardon because he knows the President? In my view, this is prosecutorial misconduct.

4. But instead of focusing on that, here’s what the New York City Bar is doing...It has  asked Congress to investigate U.S. Attorney General William Barr for recent conduct that “threatens public confidence in the fair and impartial administration of justice.”

A January. 8 letter, sent to House and Senate majority and minority leaders claims that the  “attorney general and, by extension, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) [are acting as] political partisans willing to use the levers of government to empower certain groups over others.” The press release from the New York City Bar Association is here.

A more nakedly partisan move would be hard to imagine. No such complaints came from the City Bar when both of Obama’s Justice Departments were behaving in a blatantly political manner. Among the risible complaints being made against Barr is that he has argued that opponents of President Donald Trump’s policies have been “ ‘engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.’ ”

Which indeed they have.

I view this unethical grandstanding as I did the ethics complaint to the D.C. Bar made by many of my legal ethics colleagues regarding Kellyanne Conway.

You will note, if you check the link, that I pronounced their complaint partisan, embarrassing, unprofessional crap, and that it would go nowhere, and indeed it has.

5 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/11/2020: Epstein And Facebook And Barr, Oh My!

  1. Regarding #3, Manafort’s case was dismissed due to New York state law extending double jeopardy protection to federal convictions that are substantially similar to state crimes.

    There is an active controversy over whether the separate sovereignty doctrine is constitutional, but this case side steps that issue by applying state law. In a bizarre twist, the legislature and governor attempted to create an exception to allow Manafort’s state prosecution, but the trial court ruled that the new exception did not apply. Prosecutors want to appeal that decision. (For those not familiar, the trial court in New York is confusingly called the Supreme Court, so this ruling could be appealed to a higher court).

  2. Did I miss the news about the New York Bar objecting to the NY attorney general’s selective prosecution, extortion, and interference in the business dealings and associates of the NRA? Must have, I suppose.

  3. Jack,
    It’s hard not to see you as a curmudgeon when you make statements like the following: “It was so much better when that wonderful movie was only on TV once a year: then it was special. Now, especially over the holidays (and what it has to do with Christmas, I don’t know) I had to repeatedly change channels to avoid it.”

    Considering how often you bemoan declining cultural literacy, the demise of movie musicals, and terrible remakes, one might think you would rejoice that such a worthy candidate had survived the test of time. But no, now over-saturation has become the problem. The Wizard of Oz remains popular at the holidays because it provides people a chance to relive their childhood, share that magic with the next generation, and escape to a place where good and evil were more red and green.

    In other words, let people have their fun …

    • Who’s stopping them? It’s a generational thing: you can’t imagine how the annual showing of TWOO was a big deal. It was an event! We planned the week around it. Things that are special by definition have to be infrequent. The point is that by showing the film so frequently, it’s not as much fun, and can never be as much fun again.

      Have you seen the Sesame Street special where Elmo’s wish it would be Christmas every day came true? It’s like that.

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