Saturday Ethics Run-Down, 7/20/2019: Perry Mason, Kamala Harris, And Home Runs-On-Demand

I’m calling it a run-down because I’m run down….

1. More “phantom document” ethics. Last moth I wrote about the ethically dubious “phantom document” tactic, in which a lawyer alludes to a document he or she either does not have, or suggests a document has content it does not in order to trick a witness into recanting testimony.

I just saw the Eighties made-for-TV movie “Perry Mason Returns” that rebooted the classic series (and not so well) for an aging Raymond Burr. The great defense lawyer comes out of retirement to defend old legal assistant Della Street (Barbara Hale), who has been accused of murder. In the trial’s climax, Perry’s investigator Paul Drake, Jr. (played by Hale’s real-life son, actor William Katt of “The Greatest American Hero” fame) bursts into the courtroom and hands Perry a document, which he then holds as he asks the witness (Richard Anderson, playing a different role than he played in the original series) he was in the midst of cross-examining, “Would you like to reconsider your testimony? Would you like me to read a sworn statement from Bobby Lynch, in which he says you hired him to kill Arthur Gordon?”

The witness confesses that he planned the murder that Della was being tried for, and framed her. Della goes free! Perry then tells Della that there was no sworn statement. “I didn’t say I had a sworn statement,” he chuckles, “I just asked if he wanted me to read one.” Continue reading

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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/11/2019: Smears, Excuses And Betrayals

Ethics Alarms wishes you the best this morning…

1. How low can they go? NBC News published a 1768-word article this week examining Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s slave-holding  ancestors.

The 1850 and 1860 censuses reveal that between them, two of the Kentucky Senators’ great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned at least 14 slaves in Alabama.The article’s apparent objective is to suggest that  Sen. McConnell’s ancestors may have influenced his policy positions, implying that he is racist by blood.

Nah, there’s no mainstream news media bias!

Asked about his ancestors in a press conference, McConnell pointed out that Barack Obama also has slave-holding  relatives in his family tree. Mitch was nicer than I would have been. I yield to no one in my dislike for the Senate Leader, but this is a self-evident smear ny NBC, a blatant “guilt by association” ploy with the damning associations being with people McConnell never knew.

Have you no sense of decency, NBC, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

In full disclosure, my father’s mother’s family, also from Kentucky, owned slaves. One of them, a housekeeper, continued to be employed by the family, and my grandmother cared for her in the woman’s old age, as a permanent guest and companion until she died.

Amazingly, this did not make me a fan of Mitch McConnell.

2. I’m STUNNED! Well, no, actually I knew this more than 30 years ago, when I oversaw a non-partisan study on the issue. From NPR:

Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would increase the pay of at least 17 million people, but also put 1.3 million Americans out of work, according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office released on Monday.

The increased federal minimum could also raise the wages of another 10 million workers and lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty, according to the nonpartisan CBO. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and last increased a decade ago.

The budget watchdog’s report comes ahead of next week’s vote in the House of Representatives on a bill to gradually raise the federal minimum to $15 an hour by 2024.

The minimum wage is an example of the Left’s “Don’t confuse us with facts, our minds are made up!” orientation when it comes to thoroughly debunked socialist cant. It’s pretty simple: when the compensation required for  certain jobs outweigh the value of those jobs, the jobs disappear. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the author of  the Raise the Wage Act, argued that the benefits in CBO’s forecast far outweighed the costs. Tell that to the restaurant owners who will have to close up shop, and the 1.3 million who lose their jobs, Bobby. All for the greater good!

Politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who push a massive minimum wage increase are counting on the public’s ignorance, as in other issues. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/10/2019: The All-Star Game, The National Anthem, Quotas, And Secretary Acosta

Good morning!

1. All-Star Game ethics reflections (with a dash of women’s soccer):

  • Competence. Can someone tell me how many different keys MAX wandered into while trying to sing the National Anthem at the MLB All-Star game last night? He was flat, he was sharp, he fluctuated mid-phrase.  My rule is that I don’t care to hear a singer’s self-indulgent riffs at the end of the anthem if he couldn’t sing the real notes accurately earlier. That was awful. I know: it’s a tough song to sing on pitch without accompaniment, but these people are supposed to be professionals, and that was an amateurish, sloppy job.Incredibly, MAX has performed the Star-Spangles Banner at other sporting events.

Somebody tell him.

A saving grace: at least he remembered all the words (more or less) and didn’t kneel.

  • [ Speaking of kneeling: Women’s soccer team captain Megan Rapinoe “explained” her disrespecting the National Anthem (in defiance of her own team’s rules) while representing the nation abroad, telling Anderson Cooper last night (of course Anderson had neither the wit nor integrity to challenge her nonsense,

“I think that protest is not comfortable ever. It’s going to force people to look inward and question everything they thought that they knew….taking care of others, standing up for yourself and other people if they don’t have the ability to do so, is very uniquely American…I don’t think anybody can deny the horrors of racism and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and what’s happening on the southern border and gay rights and women’s rights.”

This is a sub-breed of Authentic Frontier Gibberish, the increasingly common species called the Self-Righteous Virtue-Signaling Authentic Frontier Gibberish, or “Kaepernick-speak,” SRVSAFG for short.. If an athlete hates the country because of its past mistakes more than he or she is proud of the country because of what it stands for, aspires to, and has accomplished, then it is hypocritical to play for a national team. “What’s happening” on the Southern border is an under-funded law enforcement and security agency doing the best it can to handle a flood of deliberate law-breakers who have chosen to endanger their own children. “What’s happening” in gay rights is that they are stronger now than they were during the first term of the previous administration. “What’s happening” in women’s rights is a healthy national debate over whether those rights should include an upon-ended right to end the life of  another human being—none of which has anything to do with soccer.

But I digress–we were talking about an American sport, baseball…

  • Integrity. Fox’s baseball broadcasting is marginally better than ESPN’s but only because Fox doesn’t include a sociopathic steroid cheat like Alex Rodriguez on its broadcast team. However, the devise of having live interviews with the players on the field during the game is offensive and insulting. MLB is foolish to allow it.

2.  Oh for God’s sake...In her review of “Dog Man: The Musical,” New York Times reviewer Laurie Graeber writes, “[M]y only quibble is the same one I have with the novel: All the really interesting characters are male.” Okay, it’s only a quibble, but it’s an offensive and biased quibble, and since her editor–if the Times still uses editors; I see no sign of them of late—didn’t have the sense to slap her down, it’s up to the rest of us. What does she want, EEOC quotas in every story now? Yes, that’s exactly what she wants, and the idea is creatively stultifying. This quibble leads to other similar quibbles, and the next thing you know, a production of “Twelve Angry Men” or “That Championship Season” or “The Fantastiks” will be labelled racist, sexist, homophobic or “ablist” because it does’t perfectly balance its casting with an equal number of men, women, blacks, Asians, Hispanic, gay, transgender, non-binary, “differently-abled” characters. If there aren’t enough characters to get them all in, then eliminate the white males.

Graeber’s “quibble” is based on tribalism and bigotry, and she should not be allowed to get away with it without a fight.

3. Apparently Labor Secretary Acosta is resigning today. GOOD. Ethics Alarms covered the reasons this is necessary and now long-past due in a November 2018 post about the revelations involving Jeffrey Epstein’s unconscionable plea deal. I wrote then..

I do not see how Acosta can remain as Secretary of Labor following these revelations, incomplete as they are. I don’t see how we can trust his judgment, and even if, somehow, he could justify the deal with Epstein on legal, technical or pragmatic grounds, I doubt that the general public would be reassured. He should resign.

Yet it took eight more months and a new set of charges against Epstein for President Trump, or Acosta to accept the obvious and to do the right thing. There’s no excuse for this.

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 7/7/2019: BAM! POW! BOOM!

Welcome.

1.BAM! Billionaire sex-predator Jeffrey Epstein was arrested again, but that’s just the tip of the proverbial ethics iceberg:

  • This was the feds doing the arresting, which is confusing, since one of the controversies involving Epstein is a federal non-prosecution agreement that was part of his plea deal, negotiated by a team of super-lawyers including Alan Dershowitz.

This means that the victims in the new prosecution must be different victims from the ones in the case that send Epstein to prison for a paltry 13 months.

  • If so, I’m shocked–shocked!–that a mega-sex trafficker and sexual predator like Epstein hasn’t learned the error of his ways!

Actually, it would be shocking if a billionaire sex predator who got just a slap on the wrist for paying procurers to search the world for underage girls to be ravaged by Epstein and others at Epstein’s private plane, his Palm Beach mansion, and other locales didn’t keep engaging in his extra-curricular passion.

  • Federal prosecutors recently filed court papers in Florida case contending Epstein’s no prosecution deal must stand, with the filing stating,  “The past cannot be undone; the government committed itself to the NPA, and the parties have not disputed that Epstein complied with its provisions.”

    Now the The victims in the Florida case have until Monday to respond to the Justice Department’s filing.

  • The news media and social media resistance squads are hustling to connect Epstein to President Trump. Are they friends? Were they friends?  Most of the nation’s billionaires know each other: Trump has confirmed that he knows Epstein. Nothing has connected Trump to Epstein’s sex parties, however.

The same cannot be said of Bill Clinton.

  • The Trump connection is Labor Secretary Alexander Accosta. He was the Miami prosecutor who cut the outrageous deal with Epstein. I wrote in detail about the scandal here. Knowing all of this, President Trump still appointed Accosta as his Labor Secretary—you know, “the best people”—and the Senate confirmed him, even though this was a guaranteed ticking time-bomb.

It looks like it may finally blow.  Stay tuned.

2. POW! Res Ipsa Loquitur? Here is the Antifa’s press guidance distributed in advance of its planned disruption of a conservative protest against what the New York Times calls “perceived censorship of conservatives on social media.”

Hmmm. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up: “Important Ethics Stories That I Don’t Feel Like Writing A Lot About Or Am Thoroughly Disgusted With” Edition

Happy Weekend!

I hope you’re not working the whole time, like I am. However, the Red Sox have their first Spring Training game, they are playing the Yankees, and all is serene.

1. Another one of Trump’s “best people” bites the dust, or should soon.   Judge Kenneth A. Marra of Federal District Court in West Palm Beach ruled that accused serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s secret sweetheart plea deal agreed to by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta when he was a federal prosecutor violated federal law.

The corrupt arrangement  protected the billionaire from serious jail time and also  protected his politically-connected  friends including, notably Bill Clinton, from accountability despite their visits to Epstein’s  infamous island resort via the so-called “Lolita Express,” the private plane where young girls allegedly provided sexual services to the passengers. Ick.

I wrote a post about this unfolding scandal here. At that time, last November, I wrote,

“I do not see how Acosta can remain as Secretary of Labor following these revelation, incomplete as they are. I don’t see how we can trust his judgment, and even if, somehow, he could justify the deal with Epstein on legal, technical or pragmatic grounds, I doubt that the general public would be reassured. He should resign.”

Hey, I beat Jonathan Turley by almost three months!

2. Is the media assault on Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) for being an abusive boss legitimate? I have to say, it sure looks like it. The moderate Democratic Presidential hopeful might also be the target of a leftist news media that favors her more extreme competitors, but most Americans don’t know much about Klobuchar and can’t pronounce her name. The news media needs to introduce her, but it also shouldn’t poison the well. Conservatives, who don’t like her but like her a lot better than the likes of Senators Warren, Harris or Booker, are defending Klobuchar by arguing that she is being subjected to a double standard, since so many male officials past and present have been equally unpleasant. That’s just an “everybody does it” rationalization. There are good reasons to worry about the judgment and temperament of leaders who treat subordinates disrespectfully and cruelly, as in yesterday’s Times story about Klobuchar demanding that an aide clean her comb.

The problem is that the mainstream news media is not applying similar scrutiny, at least not yet, to similarly dubious candidates like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

3. Great. Just what we need.   “If Mueller is done, states could file their own charges — even against Trump,” says the Washington Post. So this is really the way it is: “the resistance” and its Democratic allies will continue to harass and obstruct the elected President forever, as their endless tantrum over losing the 2016 election. I have written that nothing could make me vote for someone with Donald Trump’s non-ethical approach to life as President, but I am beginning to think that only a Trump victory in 2020 will save the country from an endless cycle of partisan sabotage of Presidents, regardless of party, going forward. This unethical strategy has to fail, and fail hard. Continue reading