Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/7/ 2018: Murder, Fake Journalism, Hatch Act Games, And California Defiance

Good Morning!

1  “A Murder in the Park.” The 2014 documentary about how the Northwestern University “Innocence Project” freed a guilty murderer hours before his execution and framed an innocent man who was eventually exonerated is now available on Netflix. I wrote about the case, which had the unanticipated consequence of causing Illinois to ban the death penalty, in 2014. Then I concentrated on how badly the whole mess reflected on the justice system. As I watched the documentary last night, however, what struck me was the self-satisfied smugness and certitude of the journalism students who participated in selective investigation, advocacy instead of objective reporting, manipulation of witnesses, cause driven conclusions and more. The documentary shows us why journalism has become whatever it can be called now–certainly not journalism. Northwestern has one of the elite journalism schools in the nation, and David Protess, then the professor who ran “The Innocence Project,” was teaching students that corrupt journalism was honorable. Protess at the time was perhaps the most praised journalism teacher in the nation. It seems that he was less the exception than the rule.

2. Real discipline would be nice for a change. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) informed the Trump yesterday that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act twice.  The  findings were referred to President Trump “for appropriate disciplinary action.” The White House promptly denied the charges, so we should assume that Kelly won’t be disciplined at all.

The Hatch Act allows federal employees to express their views about candidates and political issues as private citizens, but forbids them from using their official government positions try to influence elections. Of course Conway violated the Act. On Fox and CNN, she made it clear that voters in Alabama should reject Democrat Doug Jones. The White House ludicrously claims that Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate. Nah…she just told Fox viewers last November,

“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled. He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime, weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners.”

On CNN,  she said in part,
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A “Saint’s Excuse” Classic: Athletes Forced To Endorse Positions They May Not Support

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), aka U.S. Soccer, announced last week that the U.S. Men’s National Team and the U.S. Women’s National Team will wear rainbow-colored numbers during June, LGBT pride month, saying in part,

“In recognition of LGBTQ Pride month in June, U.S. Soccer will activate a number of initiatives in partnership with the You Can Play Project”…As the highlight, the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams will wear pride-inspired rainbow numbers during the June friendlies. The MNT will debut the look for the World Cup Qualifying tune-up against Venezuela on June 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The WNT will wear the kits in away friendlies against Sweden on June 8, and Norway three days later.”

The league, in short, is forcing players to make a political statement and support a cause they may, in fact, not support. Ethics foul. This is an abuse of the players’ autonomy and freedom of though.and speech. It is also unfair, and disrespectful of them as individuals. Other professional sports are equally abusive. Over Memorial Day weekend, for example, all Major League Baseball teams are wearing military-themed uniforms, caps and equipment, with stars symbolizing the five branches of the armed services on the sleeves. The uniforms will be auctioned off with the proceeds donated to veterans’ charities. It is a lovely gesture by MLB, but what if a player doesn’t want to support the military? What if he’s a pacifist? What if he objects to American militarism or the defense budget? Apparently none of this  matters to the teams or their sport.

This abuse of power, which is exactly what it is, is fueled by The Saint’s Excuse, #13 on the Rationalizations List, also known as “It’s for a good cause.”
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Baseball Installs An Anti-Hazing, Anti-Bullying Policy That Proves It Doesn’t Understand What’s Wrong With Bullying And Hazing

mlb-drag-1

Every year, Major League Baseball teams indulge in a high-profile, stupid and offensive ritual by forcing their rookies to dress in ridiculous costumes as they travel  home after their final road trip. This is  hazing, the team’s veterans humiliating the team’s young players and forcing them to show proper deference and character by submitting to it. Most of the time, the humiliation involved dressing in drag, because, as every red-blooded American male knows, nothing is worse than being compared to a woman. Continue reading

The Ethics Of Threatening To Leave The Country…And Leaving It

leaving

Leaving the U.S. just because of the result of an election is an anti-American move for a citizen, a per se demonstration of poor character, ignorance, and a lack of understanding of history and how the government works. Primarily, it is an insult to everyone  in the country, the nation itself, and a rejection of the social compact.

We live in a republic where everyone agrees to participate in the process of government, and that means accepting the benefits, privileges, rights and the responsibilities flowing from that citizenship. Certainly anyone here has a right to try to live where they want to live. However, the nation is no different before an election than immediately after it.  If one doesn’t like living in American, I think you’re nuts, and obviously you don’t crave my association very much, but okay, bon voyage! The attitude of the post-election refugees, however, is “Democracy is only a good thing when I get my way.” Nope, that is not the deal.

If you are willing to accept what you think are the benefits of winning, then you are obligated to accept the results if you lose, and keep working to make your nation and society better as you and your like-minded citizens see it. Leaving after the votes are counted flunks the Kantian test: what would happen if everyone acted like that? It would make democracies unworkable, and ultimately extinct.

The ethical time to leave is before the election. Stupid, but ethical.

Speaking of stupidity, the current freakouts by people—including some of my close friends and relatives—demonstrate the ravages of civic ignorance. They are embarrassing. No, the election doesn’t mean “the end of legal abortions.” No, it doesn’t mean “the suspension of civil rights.” No it doesn’t mean that “Muslims will be put in camps,” or that there will be “mass deportations.” These kinds of wild apocalyptic claims are irresponsible, but mostly show a lack of comprehension of the law, the Presidency, the legislative process and the courts. Now, Donald Trump, who is similarly ignorant of our government and our legal system, may want to do some of these things, just as he may want to make the national language Swedish. But he can’t. If you think he can, your focus should be on improving the educational system, because it failed you mightily. As Barack Obama discovered to his chagrin, legislation is hard, takes skill and perseverance, and requires process,  moderation, compromise and broad consensus.

So the citizens who actually leave aren’t committed to democracy, have little pride in the culture and history of the United States, and when they don’t get what they want,  they pick up their marbles and quit. Good riddance. The nation is stronger and healthier without them. As for their less wealthy but more stout-hearted soulmates, those currently engaged in protesting the results of the election, the equivalent of a public hissy fit, they may have some societal value, eventually.

Maybe they’ll grow up.

And maybe not. “Not our President”Not our President”??? You see, children, that’s the bargain. He is your President, because that’s the deal you make with a democracy: you agree to accept the results of the election, whether you voted for the winner or not. Wait, wait, I’m so confused! Wasn’t one of the reasons you and your Party and your candidate’s media mouthpeices were saying that Trump was a Nazi was that he suggested that he might not “accept the results of the election”? Bill Maher, Professional Asshole, apologized to Bush, McCain and Romney last week for calling them fascists, because it was unfair—rump, he said, Trump is the real fascist!

I think I recognize who are acting like fascists, and the behavior fits the tactics of the party and the candidate they supported.

Yet I digress. For this post is not about those wan and selfish souls who do export themselves, but the rich and famous who threaten—promise, actually— to leave if their candidate doesn’t win. What’s going on with them? Continue reading

An Urgent And Probably Futile Call For Empathy And Compassion For The Victims Of Cultural Whiplash

north-carolina-protest-transgenderIt is sobering to read  the hateful and contemptuous comments from so many of my Facebook friends about the legislators of Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Mississippi and other states that have either passed or have tried to pass laws allowing citizens to opt out of the cultural freight train that gives them the option of boarding or getting crushed. Whether these are “religious freedom” laws or “bathroom laws,” aimed at transgendered interlopers in the once orderly realm of public bathrooms, or whether they are designed to fight for the definition of marriage as “between a man and a woman,” these laws, every one of them unwise and unethical, and probably unconstitutional too, need to be regarded as the inevitable and predictable result when human beings are forced to absorb cultural shifts in a matter of years or less that properly would evolve over generations

Culture–what any society, country, region, religion, business, organization, club, family, secret society or tree house agrees over time as how they do things, think about things, what is right and what is wrong, what is remembered and what is forgotten–is a constantly evolving process. Efforts to freeze it inevitably fail, because human beings as a species can’t stop themselves from learning. Efforts to rush the installment of major changes, however, can be disastrous, even when there seems like no alternative but to rush.

Laws don’t automatically change culture. They are part of the process, both reflecting and facilitating cultural shifts, as well as institutionalizing them. They do not even mark the end of such shifts. Nobody should be surprised, angry or abusively critical when those who have been raised to believe in certain values and practices feel betrayed and mistreated, and see the need to resist when their sense of what is right is suddenly proclaimed as not only wrong but the sign of a character deficiency and a cause for denigration and disrespect. Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: “Vote Trump Get Dumped”

 

votetrumpgetdumped

Ugh.

See, ladies, “Lysistrata” was a satire, and its charms and political wisdom have long escaped me anyway. Threatening to withhold sex to force men to vote for who you want is neither fair, smart or democratic, and is exactly as ethical as trading sex for votes, which is a particularly weird form of prostitution.

Today’s unethical website calls itself “Vote Trump Get Dumped,” and it argues…

Those who vote Trump should understand this: No sex. No dates. No chance.

To cast a vote for Trump is to agree with his sexist, perverted, demeaning, backwards, offensive treatment of women. Learn what’s at stake.

Join us by wielding your influence. Until Trump is defeated, we don’t date, sleep with, or canoodle with Trump supporters.

The Greeks did it. Women during the temperance movement did it. This is a tried and true method of getting men’s attention when they’re being dumb.

Actually the Greeks didn’t do it, it’s not “tried and true,” and it is itself dumb, as well as undemocratic. Citizens have the right to vote as they see fit, badly reasoned or not. Using any form of coercion to take away what should be a free choice is irresponsible, disrespectful and unfair, not to mention a breach of democratic principles and process.

This kind of divisive political tactic, punishing citizens for their political views, tears at the fabric of society and threatens human relationships and communities. It is akin to bars that only serve Republicans,  Facebook users who defriend Hillary supporters, and mayors who set out to punish states that pass laws they don’t agree with.

Our political choices, like our sexual choices, should not be subject to extortion and coercion. The Golden Rule applies.

__________________

Pointer: Fred

A New, Seductive And Sinister Way To Be Unethical: Shoplifter Extortion For Profit

CEC

If you are accused of shoplifting in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Houston, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, and a growing number of other cities, you may face an unexpected choice. If the store you were shopping in participates in a program operated by  the Utah-based Corrective Education Company, you will be asked to choose between talking to the police, with the risk of being arrested, or leaving the store without facing law enforcement, after you sign an admission of guilt and agree to pay $320 to take an online anti-shop-lifting course.

What??

Slate informs us that about 20,000 people around the country have faced versions of this dilemma since CEC began operations, and chose option B—enriching CEC, and the stores as well. The interesting approach was started by two Harvard Business School graduates—that figures—and is sold as a win-win-win-win:

“It saves retailers time that they would have to spend dealing with the police; it frees up law enforcement resources that could be spent on higher priority cases; it reduces the likelihood that a shoplifter will come back to the store to steal again; and it gives second chances to offenders who would otherwise be saddled with a criminal record for life.”

Right.

It’s unethical you know. I wonder if the company knows? Continue reading

When Ethical Causes Are Pursued By Unethical Means: The Anthony Porter-Alstory Simon Mess

What does this picture have in common with the Alstory Simon case and the Illinois criminal justice system? Read on...

What does this picture have in common with the Alstory Simon case and the Illinois criminal justice system? Read on…

All Americans owe a debt to the many non-profit organizations across the country dedicated to freeing innocent prisoners, some of them sentenced to die, who were wrongly prosecuted and convicted as a result of breakdowns in the justice system or prosecutorial corruption. Their work has served as an invaluable fail-safe, it has focused attention on needed reforms, and it has rescued innocent lives before they were completely destroyed. As a reminder of the corruptive power of good intentions, however, the recent release of a convicted murderer put in prison by one of these organizations serves as an ethics cautionary tale. Apparently one such “innocence project” believed that it was worth sending an innocent man to prison for a murder he did not commit in order to save the man originally convicted of the crime from execution.

In 1998,* Illinois death row inmate Anthony Porter, convicted in the 1982 murders of Marilyn Green and Jerry Hillard, was apparently proven innocent 48 hours before his scheduled execution. A Northwestern University professor and his students working with the Medill Innocence Project had obtained a videotaped confession by a man named Alstory Simon, admitting that he, not Porter, was the real killer. Porter was ultimately released, in 1999.

The governor of Illinois at the time, George Ryan, a longtime supporter of the death penalty, claimed that he was so shocked by the near fatal miscarriage of justice that he halted all executions less than a year after Porter’s exoneration. Eventually he commuted the sentences of every prisoner on death row, saying the state’s capital punishment system  could not be trusted. The Simon confession leading to Porter’s exoneration drove the shift in public opinion that caused the Illinois death penalty’s demise in 2011.

Happy ending? Not exactly. In 2005, witnesses who implicated Simon announced that they had fabricated their stories in exchange for money and a promise by the Northwestern professor, David Protess, that he would work to free two incarcerated relatives of one of the witnesses. Then Alstory Simon recanted his confession, saying that he had been persuaded by a faked videotape of witnesses implicating him in the crime, and promises of a short prison sentence and a movie deal if he confessed to a crime he didn’t commit. Last week, an Illinois judge ordered Simon released from prison after  prosecutors agreed that he was probably not guilty. He had spent almost 15 years in prison. Continue reading

Supplemental Comments On The President’s Ordered Kiss

I’m in NYC for a law firm seminar, and expect to get back to Ethics Alarms late if at all, so I want to make a couple of clarifications lest the comments on yesterday’s Ethics Quiz go astray.

I am not blaming the President for what is a standard, culturally embedded demonstration of male dominance, presumed female submissiveness and abuse of power. He is part of the culture that tolerates this, and while it would be immensely beneficial if he used his influence as a role model to move us away from this conduct that is a major, if under-recognized, way that the glass ceiling is kept intact, I recognize that this is a lot to ask, and that he has other pressing matters to deal with.

Make no mistake, however, that the male power-hug, power-kiss is a stubborn remnant of the patriarchy. I know that astute feminists (and others, like me) know this, and the fact that they don’t have the integrity or the courage to condemn the conduct when it surface’s in  a political ally is disappointing if not surprising.

To those who (absurdly) claim that the woman’s response in the video was consensual, I only ask them to speculate what her alternative to submitting to the POTUS ordered smooch was. She knew the incident was on television. He is the leader of the free world, she is, by comparison and to the public, at least, nobody. Should she have embarrassed him by refusing? Should she reject the President of the United States when he his being “nice,” thus instantly making herself the center of a controversy? Of course not. This is why the position the President placed her in was unfair.

It is, however, incredibly, disturbingly common. From Richard Dawson’s mandatory kisses from female contestants on the original “Family Feud,” to the old lions of the plaintiffs bar trying to cop a feel with my young female staffers at an association convention, men in power, and men generally, feel they have a right to this culturally accepted invasion of a woman’s physical person, and women feel obligated to permit it. Every time they do, they do their little bit to keeping men in a step ahead of them.

That’s the real issue here, not sexual assault.

 

Ethics Quiz: A Sexual Assault By The President?

"Kiss me, you saucy wench!"

“Kiss me, you saucy wench!”

I owe blogger Ann Althouse big time for this:  What an alert and accomplished troublemaker she is!

This seems like a “gotcha!” and it is certainly that. It is more, however, and raises both illuminating and difficult issues. Here is the video of Obama’s encounter while voting in Chicago today:

Here is Althouse:

“I thought only “yes” means yes: Did Obama get true, verbalized consent from that woman before he kissed her?  No. He did not…Obama orders her to kiss him: “You’re gonna kiss me. Give him something to talk about. Now, he’s really jealous.” As you see in the video, he makes that declarative statement and immediately grabs her and kisses and hugs her. Why is that acceptable? He’s using her in an effort to regain dignity and to humiliate the man who humiliated him. It might all be dismissed as play humiliation and play counter-humiliation. But the woman’s body was used as an object of that play, a means of communication between men.”

When I ran an all-female staff for a mostly rich old guy association, I gave a standing order that no staffer would submit to a kiss from a member, no matter how “playful” and no matter how high-ranking the man was. There can be no consent in such situations, and a man saying “You’re going to kiss me” and doing it a) without free and open consent and 2) under the duress and the compulsion of superior power (Gee, do you think the President of the United States automatically carries that with him? Not sure? Ask Bill Clinton.) has engaged in textbook sexual assault and battery. This conduct, which has been the subject of a major initiative by the Democrat feminist base this year, counts encounters just like the one in the video as the kind of campus sexual assault that gives them the “one in five women are victims” narrative to stoke this skirmish in the “war on women.” So your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz—and I suggest you reflect a while before you answer—is this:

Is what Obama did in the video ethical, in the sense that it was responsible, respectful, fair, acknowledging autonomy, not an abuse of power or position, and most of all, meeting the strict standard of male-female interaction that is being aggressively and pugnaciously advanced by his feminist supporters?

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