Monday Ethics Madness, 10/3/22: Remembering O.J., And More

October 3 is another date that lives in infamy…ethics infamy, legal infamy, celebrity infamy, race relations infamy. On this day in 1995, the sensational, infuriating trial of O.J. Simpson ended with his acquittal of the double murder of his estranged wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. After 252 days, jurors decided that Simpson’s guilt had not been proved “beyond a reasonable doubt” despite more than enough evidence to convict just about anyone else who didn’t have an all-star team of criminal defense lawyers. Among the many ethics alarms set off by and during the trial:

  • The imbalance between the resources available to the state in high-profile criminal cases and what a wealthy defendant can use to defend himself stood out in sharp contrast to the situation in typical cases, where the imbalance is reversed.
  • The influence of the Rodney King riots and the deft manner in which Johnny Cochran turned the trial into racial payback perverted justice and the culture—but was the epitome of zealous representation, the lawyer’s creed.
  • A weak judge, Lance Ito, allowed the defense to engage in unethical and otherwise questionable tactics, but in a setting where lawyers are arguably obligated to exploit every advantage a trial judge lets them get away with.
  • Prosecution incompetence, exemplified by such decisions as not asking for a different venue, seeking to seat African-American women on the jury, insufficiently vetting Mark Fuhrman, and the infamous gloves debacle, literally allowed Simpson to walk free from a double murder.
  • The weakness of the jury system was exposed, as the Simpson jurors proved easy to confuse regarding complex and technical scientific evidence.

And much more.

1. More college loan ethics! The Consumer Financial Protection Board ruled last week that colleges that lend directly to their students cannot later refuse to release a student’s transcript as a way of forcing them to make loan payments. The issue arises with for-profit colleges that can make their own loans to students.  The bureau said transcript withholding as a tool to collect these debts is “designed to gain leverage over borrowers and coerce them into making payments,” and are therefore abusive and excessively punitive.

“Faced with the choice between paying a specific debt and the unknown loss associated with long-term career opportunities of a new job or further education, consumers may be coerced into making payments on debts that are inaccurately calculated, improperly assessed, or otherwise problematic,” the bureau wrote.

2. Campaign tactics in Washington State. Three local corporations, the Seattle Times, the Seattle Seahawks, and Starbucks, sent certified letters to the Tiffany Smiley campaign (Smiley is the GOP nominee trying to unseat Senator Patty Murray) accusing it of “trademark infringement” for the appearance of their logos in campaign video ads. The claims seem suspiciously like harassment.  In one ad, Smiley stands in front of a deteriorating building on which, barely visible and seen backward, is a faded “Starbucks” sign. As Smiley attacks Murray for rising crime in the city,  the ad shows two Seattle Times headlines, one reading, “Starbucks to Close 5 Seattle Stores Over Safety Concerns.” (This is Fair Use.) The Smiley campaign struck back, filing a Federal Election Commission complaint that charged the Times with providing the Murray campaign a prohibited in-kind contribution. For Murray had also used a Seattle Times headline in her ads, with no complaint from the paper. The FEC complaint claims that updating the ad would cost the Republican candidate $5,000, “costs that Patty Murray does not have to accrue,” thus breaching the FEC regulation  that states, “if a corporation makes its resources available for free, it must do so for all candidates.”

3. Unethical, or exploiting a stupid loophole in a dumb policy? A man identified only as “Kem” explained that he when noticed that the New York attorney general’s office was holding a gun buyback event at the Utica, New York Police Department,  he cheaply 3D-printed dozens of plastic guns on a $200 3D printer. Then he drove drove six hours to the Utica Police Department to trade in the firearms, 110 of them. His reward? $21,000 in $500 gift cards!

As James’s PR department celebrated the program as “getting guns off the street,” Kem mocked, “I’m sure handing over $21,000 in gift cards to some punk kid after getting a bunch of plastic junk was a rousing success…Gun buybacks are a fantastic way of showing, number one, that your policies don’t work, and, number 2, you’re creating perverse demand. You’re causing people to show up to these events, and, they don’t actually reduce crime whatsoever.” (Pssst! Kem, or whatever his name is, is right. Gun buyback programs are the essence of “Do something!” nonsense, costing taxpayers money to no productive end whatsoever.)

Apparently he hit a nerve, because James’ spokesman felt compelled to respond,

It’s shameful that this individual exploited a program that has successfully taken thousands of guns off the streets to protect our communities from gun violence. We have partnered with local police throughout the state to recover more than 3,500 guns, and one individual’s greedy behavior won’t tarnish our work to promote public safety. We have adjusted our policies to ensure that no one can exploit this program again for personal gain.

Wait…doesn’t anyone who sells a firearm do it for “personal gain”?

4. Not villains, but responsible stewards of the public’s funds. Many mainstream media sources published the names of the mean, dastardly GOP House members who voted against the Fairness for 9/11 Families Act that passed in the House by a vote of 400-31. The measure includes $3 billion in added compensation for 5,000 “victims of 9/11” as well as their spouses and dependents. Supposedly the dissenters are the “bad guys.” Here’s the list of 30 Republican and one Democrat.

Andy Biggs, Arizona

Dan Bishop, North Carolina

Lauren Boebert, Colorado

Mo Brooks, Alabama

Ken Buck, Colorado

Tim Burchett, Tennessee

Michael Cloud, Texas

Andrew Clyde, Georgia

James Comer, Kentucky

Dan Crenshaw, Texas

Warren Davidson, Ohio

Louie Gohmert, Texas

Mark Green, Tennessee

Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin

Andy Harris, Maryland

Diana Harshbarger, Tennessee

Jody Hice, Georgia

Blaine Luetkemeyer, Missouri

Thomas Massie, Kentucky

Greg Murphy, North Carolina

Troy Nehls, Texas

Ralph Norman, South Carolina

Bill Posey, Florida

Tom Rice, South Carolina

John Rose, Tennessee

Chip Roy, Texas

Van Taylor, Texas

Michael Turner, Ohio

Daniel Webster, Florida

The Democrat was Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader, who also opposed the bill.

The current government has decided that the National Debt doesn’t matter, and that there will be no consequences of spending billions like they are in Monopoly money. There is no reason that I can see that the victims of the 9-11 attacks merit any more financial assistance than the victims of any tragedy, and there have been hundreds of thousands of those, across the country, in the past 21 years.

Remember the Davy Crockett story? It applies here.

5. Yes, bias sure makes people stupid....Here is how veteran pollster John Zogby rationalized President Biden’s “I see dead people” moment from last week:

Yes, we have all either had or watched someone have one of those moments like Biden did in calling out for Walorski during a speech this week.

Over 50 years ago, I was with a girlfriend at an art show, and one of my high school students came up to say hello. The student was wearing a sundress, and something unflattering was on her neck. My girlfriend said, ‘Hold on a second,’ and flicked what she thought was a fly on the student. Well, it was a mole, sad to say. And I never talked to that student again. But I remember like it was yesterday.

We never forget those moments, but I didn’t break up with my girlfriend over it.

So the public face of the president this past week featured him giving a shoutout to a congresswoman who had been tragically killed in a car crash a few months ago. It was embarrassing and even icky, but not a game changer.

Biden also backtracked on his student loan forgiveness plan, but I see a president in command of facts and strategy — things I could not say about Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush.

I’m tempted to call Zogby’s pathetic attempt to brush off Biden’s episode “one of those moments” itself. There is no comparison between thinking a mole is a fly or a piece of dirt and Biden forgetting the recent death of Jackie Walorski when he had publicly spoken about her death just a month earlier. Meanwhile, does anybody believe Joe Biden is “in command of facts and strategy”? Who does Zogby think he’s fooling?

7 thoughts on “Monday Ethics Madness, 10/3/22: Remembering O.J., And More

  1. #5 When I read Zogby’s take on “Where’s Jackie?”, it reminded me of the scene with the warden, where Tim Robbins asks him, “How can you be so obtuse?” I think Zogby is like the warden, he knows exactly what he is saying. Not sure though if he thinks it’s for his own perceived benefit.

  2. <<consumers may be coerced into making payments on debts

    Oh the horror of it. What inhumanity.

    For some reason, the IRS insists on you paying your debts to them. They can get downright nasty about it, in fact, if sufficiently provoked.

    3) When cities hold these gun buyback programs, don't a lot of people go get their broken and otherwise worthless guns for the occasion?

    I mean, weren't these brank new guns, just needing ammunition to be fully functional (no, I'm not being sarcastic here)?

    • The printed “guns” the fellow turned in to the “buyback” were AR-15 lower receivers and bare handgun frames which require an additional $400+ in parts to become functional. Because of the dumb ATF rules that define what a firearm is, these far-from-functional hunks of plastic are legally “guns”, despite the fact that they’re literally less dangerous than a baseball.

  3. Re: Item 4- Once again I read about the “ripoff of the public 9/11 industry.” 3 billion for 5000 “victims”= $600,000 per “victim” in ADDITIONAL payments. The fact that only 30 Congressmen saw through this scam is amazing. From the days after the infamous event, I recall reading the obituaries of the 3000 in the NYT. I was astonished that of the 3000 there was not one “bastard, or son of a bitch” in the crowd. All were canonized. Not one was having marital difficulties, not one struggled with addiction, and not one received a parking ticket. If you were a 21 y/o new bride that day you are now 42. If you were the child of a victim born on that day you are now 21. The victim-survivors have been milking this for two decades, it’s time to stop. It should never have started.

  4. Re:- Item 3- I salute Kem for his entrepreneurial endeavor. I do have a question! What was his net profit? When will our exalted leaders learn that the moment the government starts to give things away, the schemers and the scammers respond to the alarm in ways unimaginable?
    Re: Item 5- Being 74, I have those moments. However, I am not the POTUS. Nor am I the Vice President, who had a “moment” at the Korean DMZ, calling the North Koreans allies. When one does a neurological/psychiatric evaluation it is required to assess the patient’s awareness of time, place, and person. I just came back from a medical appointment where I was administered a Medicare-required, annual assessment of my cognitive abilities. Should not the cognitive awareness of our leaders be frequently evaluated?

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