Acosta-Epstein Scandal Update: Acosta Resigns As Labor Secretary

The resignation is effective one week from today. Acosta’s deputy, Pat Pizzella, will become acting Secretary. In the Trump administration, acting secretary is a real growth position, since the appointments to the administration’s top jobs are so uniformly wretched. As with so many other disastrous appointments, Trump, or someone, should have seen this scandal coming before Acosta was nominated..

In confirming reports that he had stepped down, Alexander Acosta said, “I do not think it is right and fair for this administration’s labor department to have Epstein as the focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today.” He said that he called President Trump and “told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside. Because cabinet positions are temporary trusts. It would be selfish for me to stay in this position and continue talking about a case that’s twelve years old rather than about the amazing economy we have right now.”

It was the right move for Acosta whether you believe that he needed to be held accountable for the Jeffrey Epstein fiasco or not. The Democrats are desperately trying to tie Epstein to Trump, and the narrative that Acosta was rewarded for helping a Trump “pal” needed to be squashed. I second the reaction of Ann Althouse, who doubled down on her earlier opinion by re-publishing it  after she heard the news:

“I do think Acosta should resign. When it mattered most, the cries of a wealthy man overwhelmed those of ordinary people. That’s not what belongs in the Labor Department.”

Continue reading

More On The Acosta-Epstein Scandal: Leadership, Moral Luck, Accountability, And Scapegoating

Veteran commenter Glenn Logan expressed  doubts about the fairness of current criticism of the Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta (above right) for his approval of a ridiculously lenient plea deal for jet-setting sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein (above left). Glenn’s objections  prompted me to search for prior posts here on the ethics issue of high level accountability for disasters and fiascos. In this morning’s warm-up, #3, I discussed the reasons I feel the criticism of Acosta is justified (re Glenn’s complaint that journalists are determined to destroy Acosta because of his connection to their primary target, the President, my response is that  critics being biased and having unethical motives doesn’t mean their criticism is necessarily wrong), and concluded,

“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.”

Glenn responded that this sounded more “like scapegoating than accountability.” “’Somebody must pay,’ he said, “is not convincing to me.” Hence my search of the Ethics Alarms archive. This is a topic of long-standing interest for me, in great part due to my military-minded father.

I also recently watched the Netflix series “Bad Blood,” about Montreal’s Mafia. The accountability of leadership is a recurring theme in that series:  we see the father of the future head of the powerful Rizzuto family telling his son as a boy that he is now responsible for caring for and cultivating several tomato plants. “If a plant produces good tomatoes,” the father explains, ” you will be rewarded. If a plant produces poor tomatoes, you will be punished.” Even if the reasons a plant fails to produce good tomatoes has nothing to do with the son’s efforts and were beyond his control, the father goes on to say, “I will still punish you. For that is the burden of leadership. When that for which a leader is responsible goes wrong, he must be accountable and pay the price whether it is his fault or not. Only then is he worthy of his followers trust.” Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Encore: “Ethics Quiz: Four Young Children Locked In A Hot Car” (July 31, 2014)

 

[ I’m a mess today; exhausted, distracted, sad. I’m mad at myself about it too, but you can’t reason away or rationalize away grief. Everything makes me think about my little dog. It’s 85 degrees; gee, is it too hot to walk…oh. Right. I feel like a nap: Hey Rugby, want to…oh. Of course. Silly me. Then that TV commercial comes on with the Jack Russell in the car letting his ears blow in the breeze, smiling. Rugby did that. Crap.

So, lazy though it may be, I’m going to put up an old post of interest, an Ethics Quiz. We’re heading into the “locking kids—and dogs—in hot cars” season, so here’s a post about that topic from five years ago.]

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Mom and mom advocate Lenore Skenazy writes the Free Range Kids blog, which I have to remember to check out regularly. She is the source of today’s Ethics Quiz, which she obviously believes has an easy answer. We shall see.

Charnae Mosley, 27, was arrested by Atlanta police and charged with four counts of reckless conduct after leaving her four children, aged 6, 4, 2, and 1, inside of her SUV with the windows rolled up and the car locked.  It was 90 degrees in Atlanta that day. The children had been baking there for least 16 minutes while their mother did some shopping. A citizen noticed the children alone in the vehicle and reported the children abandoned.

Skenazy believes that the arrest is excessive—that the mother made a mistake, but that compassion is called for, not prosecution:

“[T]he mom needs to be told that cars heat up quickly and on a hot summer day this can, indeed, be dangerous. She does not need to be hauled off to jail and informed that even if she makes bail, she will not be allowed to have contact with her children…No one is suggesting that it is a good idea to keep kids in a hot, locked car with no a.c. and the windows up. But if that is what the mom did, how about showing some compassion for how hard it is to shop with four young kids, rather than making her life infinitely more difficult and despairing?The kids were fine. They look adorable and well cared for. Rather than criminalizing a bad parenting decision (if that’s what this was), how about telling the mom not to do it again?”

Do you agree with her? Here is your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the day:

Was it cruel, unfair, unsympathetic or unkind for Atlanta police to arrest Mosely for leaving her four young children locked in a hot car? Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Marshae Jones Case

In case you missed the facts of this instant ethics train wreck a legal case, here they are:

Marshae Jones,  27-years old, was five months pregnant when she attacked female co-worker, Ebony Jemison, 23, in the parking lot of a Dollar Store. The two had a long-standing and bitter rivalry over their romantic designs regarding a man who worked at the same company and who is apparently the father of the unborn child.  Jones  had Jemison pinned in her car while punching her repeatedly. In self defense,  Jemison grabbed her gun and fired point blank at Marshae’s stomach. The car taking Jones  to the hospital broke down, delaying a medical response. Paramedics eventually arrived, but the unborn child had been struck by the bullet, and died.

A grand juryindicted Jones for  “initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant,” but chose not to indict Ebony Jemison, who fired the shot. Despite the confusing and incompetent reporting on the case, it is still not certain that prosecutors in Pleasant Grove, Alabama will ultimately prosecute Jones, who according to all reports wanted her baby.  I doubt that they will.  Lynneice Washington, the district attorney for part of Jefferson County, said last week that no decision had yet been made about whether to go to trial, file lesser charges against Jones, or dismiss the case altogether.

“Foremost, it should be stated that this is a truly tragic case,” her statement said. “We feel sympathy for the families involved, including Ms. Jones, who lost her unborn child.”

Observations:

1. The fact that Jemison was not charged should surprise no one, nor does it reasonably affect the ethical and legal issues at issue here. She was attacked. The law of self-defense almost universally allows the use of deadly force when the alternative is sustaining a serious beating.  If one is attacked by a pregnant woman, the response to the attack does not have to be moderated because of the possible consequences to an unborn child. The responsibility for any adverse result to the fetus is completely the expectant mother’s.

2. Thus this headline by ABC and others like it— “Alabama woman charged in fetal death, her shooter goes free”—are inflammatory, misleading and biased journalism, blatantly attempting to take Jones’ side.

3. Alabama law declares a fetus to have the rights of a person from the moment of conception. There is nothing unethical or unreasonable about such a law, whether or not you agree with it. The reverse law, that a fetus/embryo/unborn child has no rights until birth is also ethically and legally defensible. Both cause practical problems and ethical conflicts and dilemmas, as do any compromise positions.

4. As long as a jurisdiction allows abortions within Supreme Court guidelines, there is nothing unethical about the jurisdiction prosecuting someone other than the mother who kills a fetus, intentionally or through negligence. 38 states have laws that classify fetuses as victims in homicide or assault, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Alabama, a “person” includes embryos and fetuses at any stage of development, and the state leads the nation in such prosecutions. Last year, Jessica Lindsey, 29, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to chemical endangerment for using heroin while pregnant. Raven West, a heroin addict who gave birth to a stillborn baby, received a five-year suspended sentence last year. And Alexandra Laird, who gave birth to two children who tested positive for heroin, received two suspended 10-year sentences and access to a treatment program, according to court records.

Regarding those three results: Good…Good…Good. I have no problem with them.

4. The question is, how different is a pregnant woman who starts a parking lot fist fight that precipitates sufficient violence to kill her unborn child from a woman who knowingly ingests toxic substances that harm or kill a fetus? I don’t see a material difference. If not, then why is it unreasonable to prosecute Jones?

5. It is amazing how deftly the same progressive advocates can turn on a dime and go from “Think of the children!” to “DON’T think of the children!” depending on what’s expedient at the time.

6. Although Alabama is currently challenging Roe v. Wade, this case has nothing to do with its defiant anti-abortion law. I see no reason to believe that Jones wouldn’t be charged under the same criminal statute a year ago or five years ago. This episode has just given pro-abortion advocates an opportunity to attack the state and make Jones into a martyr, though she was not seeking an abortion. At about 20 weeks pregnant, Jones was within the range where she could have had an abortion before the new law, so the feminist argument is, I guess, that if you can legally abort an unborn baby, you should also be able to get it shot without any consequences.

Nice.

7. The callousness with which the news media tries to spin stories related to the unborn is striking. Here’s the Washington Post:

“The 27-year-old was five months pregnant when she was involved in a fight that, authorities say, prompted a woman to fire a gun in self-defense. The bullet tore through Jones’s abdomen and caused a miscarriage.”

No, the bullet struck the unborn child and killed it. That’s not a “miscarriage.”

8. Whatever the outcome, Jones caused the death of her unborn child through outrageous, violent and uncivilized behavior, and warrants no sympathy whatsoever.

As always in such stories, her family says that Jones is a saint. Her mother calls her “a fun-loving mom, churchgoing, a hard-working lady,” insisting, “My child just doesn’t bother anybody.”  Except, that is, a woman trying to make time with the father of Jones’ unborn child, in a parking lot, where she engages in a fist fight. Yeah, that Marshae is a responsible, model citizen! How could this happen to her?

9. Her lawyers say, absurdly,

“This young mother was shot in the stomach while five months pregnant and lost her baby as a result. She lost her home to a fire and lost her job. Now, for reasons that defy imagination, she faces an unprecedented legal action that subjects this victim of violence to further distress and harm.”

I know lawyers must defend their client’s zealously, but this is legal demagoguery.  She was shot because of her own criminal actions. She was fired because she attacked a co-worker. She was a “victim of violence” necessitated by her own attack. I don’t know what the fire has to do with anything; the statement just as well might have said, “And she faces painful root canal work due to chronic tooth decay.” Talk about throwing in everything but the kitchen sink!

10. I think this is worthy of another poll.

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Sources: ABC, Washington Post, New York Times

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/27/2019: Illegal Immigration Trainwreck Edition

Good Morning!

Once again I am trying to get a post up while furiously preparing for a program, this time a super-sized version of “Ethics Rock Extreme” for a federal agency, in collaboration with the marvelous Mike Messer, my rock/country/pop singer and guitar virtuoso partner of almost 20 years….I’ll begetting to ethics observations on last night’s debate when I return, if I return.

1. “Think of the children!” porn.  I’m sure you’ve seen this…

…and have read or heard some of the shirt-rending and hair-tearing prompted by the viral photograph of a drowned “migrant” and his infant son. The injection of pure, unreasoning emotion and sentimentality into the illegal immigration debate is cynical but predictable, and this is just an escalation of the media campaign to frame all illegal immigration in romantic and sentimental terms.

The photo should change nothing. The death of an infant irresponsibly and recklessly taken on a dangerous journey (as well as an illegal one) is the fault of the parent who brought him, not the Presient of the united States, not ICE, not immigration officials. Democrats like Chuck Schumer who exploit such a photo are unconscionable. “Seeking a better life” is not now now has ever been a justification for breaking the law. The photo of an adult and an infant who die in the course of a dangerous attempt to break U.S. laws should prompt pity for the child and anger at the adult, no more, no less.

Those taking up the “Think of the children!” cry need to be asked if their solution is to provide ferry rides across the Rio Grande for children who are forced to accompany their parents in attempts at illegal immigration. Or U.S. lifeguards stationed on the shore, perhaps. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Drill, 5/7/19: Unethical Headlines, A Missing Coffee Cup, And A Comment Of The Day

A morning that begins with a trip to the dentist and a referral to an oral surgeon can’t be good. Sorry.

And now I see that without warning or explanation, WordPress has removed its spellcheck feature. I’m sure those of you who are sick of my typos will appreciate THAT…

1. Stop making me defend Anderson Cooper, sort of! Here’s a cheap shot Fox News headline:

Anderson Cooper denies he’s ‘on the left,’ then rips Trump for tweeting about Kentucky Derby

Well, I’m also not on “the left” (Cooper is, of course), and I’m going to rip the President for tweeting his opinion on the Kentucky Derby, without even getting into the fact that his opinion was ill-informed and stupid.

As I wrote more than once during the Obama administration, the President is not the national arbiter of everything, and should keep his opinion to himself unless it directly and clearly involves the national interest. President Obama had a proclivity for injecting himself into controversies large and small, from the Trayvon Martin shooting to picking brackets for the NCAA college basketball tournament.  I wrote in this post,

This can no longer be called a rookie mistake, like the Prof. Gates arrest affair. President Obama has now had plenty of time to absorb the fact that the President does not have a blank check to insert himself into every local controversy and use his office to sway public opinion and the conduct of others regarding matters outside his responsibilities. Still, he continues to do it. It may seem trivial at first: the President gave an interview on TNT in which he pointedly suggested that NBA superstar LeBron James consider the Chicago Bulls as he faces free agency.  After weighing in on the most important things for James to seek from his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, if he was going to stay there, the President said, “You know, like I said, I don’t want to meddle. I will say this: (Derrick) Rose, Joakim Noah it’s a pretty good core. You know, you could see LeBron fitting in pretty well there.”

Now, I don’t care what Cooper thinks of Trump’s meddling in matters that don’t concern him if the CNN anchor didn’t have the integrity to knock Obama for doing the same thing, and repeatedly. Still, Anderson was on the right track—finally—to say, as he did,

“The president of the United States seems to have a lot of time on his hands And he can’t even stand some horses getting uninterrupted airtime. He’s got to be a part of every frickin news cycle. He can’t help himself!”

(I guess “frickin” is now considered professional lexicon at CNN. Stay classy, Anderson!)

Less defensible was this comment: Continue reading

Funny! But Inexcusably Incompetent : “Game Of Thrones” Ethics

Yes, somebody left a Starbucks cup on the set of last night’s much ballyhooed “Game of Thrones” episode on HBO.

It would be a good exercise to list all the rationalizations one could access to try to minimize such a massive botch, and avoid the likely consequences of making it. Without breaking an ethics sweat, I came up with…

  • 6. The Biblical Rationalizations, “Judge not, lest ye not be judged,” and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
  • 8. The Trivial Trap (“No harm no foul!”)
  • 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”
  • 20. The “Just one mistake!” Fantasy
  • 22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
  • 38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”
  • 50. The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”
  • 64A. Bluto’s Mistake or “I said I was sorry!”

As silly as that “one mistake” seems, a head, or many heads, should roll. This tweet from an annoyed fan nicely sums the situation up: “You’re telling me they had TWO YEARS to put together a decent show and they couldn’t even spot the goddamn Starbucks cup in Winterfell??!” Continue reading