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. Continue reading

Proposition: Nike Should Fire Colin Kaepernick And Be Severely Punished by Consumers For Promoting This Hateful Idiot As A Hero And Role Model

Colin Kaepernick was metaphorically taking a knee on Twitter yesterday. He wrote, referring to the killing of Qassem Soleimani,

…and later…

Kaepernick’s words and conduct mark him as a narcissistic, ignorant, America-hating, race-baiting idiot. That’s what he is, other than a washed-up pro athlete whose erudition began and ended with a fake college degree (his major, amusingly, was business management) while he prepared to play pro football. His irresponsible kneeling stunt cost the NFL millions, launched multiple divisive offspring, denigrated the nation and its police, and accomplished nothing positive, in large part because it was incoherent.

Never mind: Nike, exhibiting the amoral and ethics-free motivations that have long characterized most corporations, pandered to the woke, hateful and dumb by making Kaepenick the face of its latest “Just do it!” campaign, a 30 year old slogan that was always stupid, even by corporate slogan standards. Admittedly, a stupid slogan is a good bet to appeal to the people who will pay ridiculous amounts of money for sneakers, but even so: Just do what? Just jump out a window? Just set your face on fire? Just sexually assault that attractive woman at work? Just shoot off your mouth about matters you are painfully ill-informed about? Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Frances Arnold

I’m sure there are a lot of people doing ethical things and not  trying to deliberately make me embarrassed to be a member of the human race—just not on social media, and not in the news. And there is Frances Arnold.

She is an American chemical engineer and the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry at  Caltech. Professor Arnold was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018 for pioneering the use of directed evolution to engineer enzymes. “Directed evolution” is a method used in protein engineering that mimics the process of natural selection to steer proteins or nucleic acids toward a user-defined goal. You know..this:

She had published a  paper on enzymatic synthesis of beta-lactams in May 2019 in the Science journal. When she discovered recently that her research could not be replicated, however, Arnold repudiated her own paper, and pronounced it the product of shoddy research.

“For my first work-related tweet of 2020, I am totally bummed to announce that we have retracted last year’s paper on enzymatic synthesis of beta-lactams. The work has not been reproducible,” she posted on Twitter. “It is painful to admit, but important to do so. I apologize to all. I was a bit busy when this was submitted, and did not do my job well.”

A short, clear, Level I apology, and it is refreshing to know that there are scientific geniuses who use the word “bummed,” and who do not write like Timnit Gebru.

On one hand, I wonder if it is easier for a Nobel winner to admit something like this. On the other, I am certain that the more eminent a scientist is, the harder it is to reveal a serious error. No matter how one looks at it, Professor Arnold exhibited integrity, honesty, humility and courage, may have done as much for science by showing how an ethical scientist handles an error as she did with her work on directed evolution.

I would be more certain about that if I understood what the hell directed evolution was.

_________________________________________

Use this link if you are sharing on Facebook: https://twitter.com/CaptCompliance/status/1213583009942622208

Ethics Heroes: The Appeals Court For The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts

I am not honoring the appeals court that just upheld the lower court judgment in my favor in a two-year old (and probably not over yet) frivolous lawsuit against my for defamation by an angry ex-Ethics Alarms commenter. The court’s decision rejecting the plaintiff’s appeal was dictated by precedent and black letter law, as was the decision in the original case. It took no special courage or integrity to hold so, and in fact any other result would have evinced rank incompetence.

No, I am awarding the court Ethics Hero status after receiving today its  published opinion in case n. 18-p-1605, where the judgement of the lower court judge was affirmed. It is officially a summary decision, and thus not binding precedent, since the usual details a full appellate opinion would contain are missing. However, in the eight page opinion affirming the lower court dismissal of the complaint, the judges are impressively restrained, respectful, and thorough. They manage this despite the fact that the lawsuit was doomed from the beginning, without merit or law on its side. The persistence of the plaintiff has wasted taxpayer money (and mine) and occupied time the judges needed to address more serious and legitimate matters.

Nonetheless, the fact that a pro se litigant is able to receive more than perfunctory handling of even a complaint this misbegotten and trivial speaks well for our system, and very well for the judges. Despite all the attacks claiming that our system only caring about ‘justice for the rich,” a pro se litigant seeking justice (as he saw it) and using confused, garbled and outrageously long documents to that end,  cannot deny that his case and arguments were ignored. He lacked the financial resources to hire a lawyer to pursue them (though I wonder if any lawyer would have accepted the representation) and represented himself—rather badly, but still, he took his best shot. Continue reading

“Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” Holiday Edition

Oops! Let the mask slip a bit too much there! After hearing from her editors or others in the Post offices that it was poor PR to proclaim the fact that the paper’s staff was cheering, high-fiving and otherwise rejoicing to celebrate their not insubstantial role in provoking a destructive and unjustified Presidential impeachment, Blade solemnly tweeted,

Right.

Too late.

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 12/14/19: Insulting George Washington And Other Annoyances

Good Morning!

1. Now THIS ia an abuse of power! It sure looks as if outgoing Kentucky governor Matt Bevin—he’s a Republican, remember— has decided to take revenge on the state that narrowly defeated him for re-election. Right before he moved out of the Governor’s Mansion, Bevin issued 428 pardons and commutations, often without apparent regard to who or what he was pardoning. He pardoned a man convicted of homicide, after the murderer’s  family raised more than $20,000  to help Bevin pay off a debt owed from his previous gubernatorial campaign.  That wasn’t the only murderer Kentucky got back in its Christmas stocking; there were more, like the man who paid to have his business partner killed, and  another who killed his parents.. Bevin released a man convicted of raping a child.

While many of the pardons issued did involve cases where there were allegations of  sloppy police work and injustice, many did not. Bevin pardoned  Dayton Ross Jones, who pleaded guilty to the 2014 sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy, for example. That crime was captured on video and shared on social media. Jones was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016. Now he’s out.

“A young man was attacked, was violated, it was filmed, it was sent out to different people at his school,” Kentucky’s new governor, Andy Beshear said. “It was one of the worst crimes that we have seen. I fully disagree with that pardon. It is a shame and its wrong.”

But there isn’t a thing he or Kentucky citizens can do about it.

2. Let’s ask Chris Wallace about this sterling example of fair and balanced journalism...I know that Ethics Alarms has documented over many years what a partisan, biased, incompetent and dishonest hack Chris Cillizza is, so this is hardly news. Still, he has a job at CNN, which allows him to inflict his hackery on the public. An ethical news organization wouldn’t keep someone like Cillizza around., but as James Earl Jones used to say, “This is CNN.” The disturbing part is that he’s far from the worst hack on its payroll.

A Monmouth University poll this week claimed that Republican voters believed that George Washington was a better President than Donald Trump by only a 44%-37% margin. (Remember: polls.)  Cillizza said that fact that 37% of Republican respondents chose Trump over Washington provides “a useful way into understanding just how rote the fealty is to Trump within the ranks of the Republican Party at the moment.”

Let me just interject here that almost no Americans could tell you anything about George Washington’s terms in office other than the fact that he was the first President. (This is another reason to watch “John Adams.”)

While implying that Republicans are ignorant morons, however, Cillizza neglected to mention another alleged result of the poll: Democratic voters said former President Barack Obama was a better President than George an embarrassing 63%-29% margin. Continue reading

Conclusion To The Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment”

Jonathan Turley ended his epic testimony before the House Judiciary Committee with a flourish. His whole statement was remarkable, leaving no reasonable argument for impeachment standing—but then the now-insatiable desire to undo the 2016 election has never been rational, and it has relied, despicably, on the historical and legal ignorance of the vast majority of the American people. Turley provided an opportunity for responsible citizens to educate themselves: his language was easy and clear, and there were no pompous or especially academic turns of phrase. Nonetheless, few will read or watch the whole thing, allowing the news media, which has exceeded all previous villainy in this three-year long fiasco, to distort and minimize his patriotic achievement. To the degree that they succeed, it is do the detriment of the nation, and its future. Somehow, Turley makes this clear as well, yet does so without the kind of alienating condemnation that I, in his position, would be unable to resist.

No doubt about it, the professor is a far better scholar and advocate than I am, and a brilliantly talented teacher as well. Still, he made me feel good about the analysis I have been presenting here since 2016. I have studied Presidential history for a shockingly long time; I know my impeachment history well, and observed two of the three previous inquiries up close, live and carefully. I have been certain, certain, from the beginning that what we have seen here is an unprecedented crypto-coup, for virtually all the reasons Professor Turley explains. I’m glad to have the legal authority and the meticulous tracking of where the inquisition ran off the rails, but Turley validated the analysis I have  given readers here. That came as a relief and a confirmation.

It was naturally a special pleasure that the professor ended his testimony by referencing the scene in the video above, from “A Man for All Seasons,” my favorite ethics moment in any movie, and the clip most often used on Ethics Alarms. He also referenced the story of the Republican Senators who turned on their party and voted to acquit President Andrew Johnson, for me the most memorable chapter of “Profiles in Courage,” the book that introduced me to the topic of ethics when I was 12 years old. Turley quotes one of the Senators who was only slightly mentioned by credited author John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but it’s a stirring quote, and damn any politician or citizen who ignores its message.

Lyman Trumbull (R- Ill.) explained fateful decision to vote against Johnson’s impeachment this way:

“Once set the example of impeaching a President for what, when the excitement of the hour shall have subsided, will be regarded as insufficient causes … no future President will be safe who happens to differ with the majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate …I tremble for the future of my country. I cannot be an instrument to produce such a result; and at the hazard of the ties even of friendship and affection, till calmer times shall do justice to my motives, no alternative is left me…”

Those who endanger the future of my country because of their unrestained anger, hate, confirmation bias, partisan loyalty, prejudice, need to conform, and yes, ignorance and their lack of education, are contemptible. Those who lead them in pursuit of power are worse.

[Turley’s entire statement, with footnotes, is here. The Ethics Alarms edited version is here (Part I); here (PartII); here (Part III); here (Part IV), and here (Part V.) The video is here.]

***

V. CONCLUSION

Allow me to be candid in my closing remarks. I get it. You are mad. The President is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My Republican friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog is mad . . . and Luna is a golden doodle and they are never mad. We are all mad and where has it taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?

That is why this is wrong. It is not wrong because President Trump is right. His call was anything but “perfect” and his reference to the Bidens was highly inappropriate. It is not wrong because the House has no legitimate reason to investigate the Ukrainian controversy. The use of military aid for a quid pro quo to investigate one’s political opponent, if proven, can be an impeachable offense.

It is not wrong because we are in an election year. There is no good time for an impeachment, but this process concerns the constitutional right to hold office in this term, not the next.

No, it is wrong because this is not how an American president should be impeached. For two years, members of this Committee have declared that criminal and impeachable acts were established for everything from treason to conspiracy to obstruction. However, no action was taken to impeach. Suddenly, just a few weeks ago, the House announced it would begin an impeachment inquiry and push for a final vote in just a matter of weeks. To do so, the House Intelligence Committee declared that it would not subpoena a host of witnesses who have direct knowledge of any quid pro quo. Instead, it will proceed on a record composed of a relatively small number of witnesses with largely second-hand knowledge of the position. The only three direct conversations with President Trump do not contain a statement of a quid pro quo and two expressly deny such a pre-condition. The House has offered compelling arguments why those two calls can be discounted by the fact that President Trump had knowledge of the underlying whistleblower complaint. However, this does not change the fact that it is moving forward based on conjecture, assuming what the evidence would show if there existed the time or inclination to establish it. The military aid was released after a delay that the witnesses described as “not uncommon” for this or prior Administrations. This is not a case of the unknowable. It is a case of the peripheral. The House testimony is replete with references to witnesses like John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Mulvaney who clearly hold material information.

To impeach a president on such a record would be to expose every future president to the same type of inchoate impeachment. Continue reading