Tag Archives: due process

KABOOM! Is Your Head Explosion Proof? Find Out Now With The Handy Ethics Alarms Test, Starring CNN’s Don Lemon!

On February 15 at 11 pm, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon held a debate between the Nation’s Joan Walsh–The Nation is the farthest left of the U.S. political magazines, and is fairly described as Socialist—and National Review editor Rich Lowry. TNR is the most venerable of U.S. conservative publications. The subject was gun control, following the horrific high school shooting in Florida. Lemon was supposed to moderate.

I began watching the segment, which was amazingly, perilously  long, until my head exploded, nearly killing Rugby. Yesterday, I finally found a transcript of the exchange, and realized that those of you who think your heads are immune from detonation can test your cranial fortitude by trying to read it.

I recommend the test. It is challenging, and if your head survives intact, you can safely assume that nothing will send your brain matter to the ceiling, which is feeling of security we all aspire to. First, however, line the room with plastic sheets. Wear something easily washable (or nothing at all.) And for God’s sake, keep pets and loved ones out of the room. No helmets allowed.

I will break in from time to time to comment, and check on how you are doing.

We’ll begin the transcript when the early part of the discussion had turned to the NRA and its large contributions to elected officials…

RICH LOWRY: Well, I think you’re looking at this totally from the wrong perspective. Let’s take Paul Ryan for instance. I’m sure — I’m almost certain he was pro-gun rights even before he thought about running for Congress. So the idea all the Republicans are secret gun controllers and just have been bought off to go out and lie and pretend they’re in favor of gun rights is not true. This is a sincere conviction.

DON LEMON: Where is the evidence? I never said that.

JOAN WALSH: I don’t think Don was saying that.

LOWRY: Well you’re suggesting that Paul Ryan —

LEMON: I’m not suggesting anything.

LOWRY: — because of the money.

LEMON: I’m just reading the facts.

LOWRY: Okay, so the contributions have nothing to do with Paul Ryan’s conviction on guns? We agree on that?

LEMON: No, we don’t agree with that.

LOWRY: Okay. That’s the point I’m making. I’m sure he was pro —

LEMON: I’m not saying — you’re saying they’re secret gun controllers. I never intimated that.

LOWRY: Yes. You’re saying they’re bought off. So — if they’re — what are they being bought off to a position they don’t agree with it? Is that what you’re suggesting?

LEMON: Do you think they’re not influenced by the money?

LOWRY: No.

LEMON: Are you influenced by money?

LOWRY: Let’s talk about Paul Ryan.

LEMON: Do you know where your bread is butter?

LOWRY: Let’s talk about Paul Ryan. You think he is a secret gun controller? He has always been in favor of gun control.

WALSH: No, no one is saying that why creating the straw person that is what. It’s not something either one of us would.

LOWRY: No. Well — How it the money relevant? So it’s a sincere conviction.

WALSH: The money is relevant, because they have an alliance, the money is relevant.

LEMON: The money is getting them elected.

WALSH: The money gets them elected.

LOWRY: The NRA supporting him because he’s pro-gun.

WALSH: They have come around to —

LEMON: I am looking at it that way.

WALSH: — absolutism version of the First Amendment where common sense gun laws don’t work.

LOWRY: What’s wrong?

LEMON: No it doesn’t. Because he is influenced by the money.

LOWRY: No, no, no. So you think he —

LEMON: If the NRA —

LOWRY: — you think that —

LEMON: — is not paying him the money, then he would —

LOWRY: — when he was 16 years old out hunting deer, he was in favor of gun control then he ran for office and all this lobbyist money came to him and he changed his view on guns. That’s absurd

WALSH: You are creating a straw person.

LEMON: So, why oppose common sense restrictions that the vast number of Americans support and, by the way, do you think he was out with an AR-15 hunting?

LOWRY: I’m sure he is out with a rifle.

LEMON: Okay but an AR-15?

HEAD CHECK I. Head still intact? Good for you. 

A. Note that Don Lemon is supposed to be the moderator. This format is that CNN invites two “experts” on different sides of an issue to debate points for the edification of its audience. The theory is that this is fair and even handed. Lemon is the worst, most incompetent moderator of all time, because he literally could not be worse. If he were a boxing referee, he’d be pummeling one of the fighters. Not only does he take the role of an advocate, teaming up with Walsh against Lowry, but because that leaves the segment with no moderator, it rendered the segment incoherent, with everyone talking over each other, shouting and interrupting while seldom finishing a sentence or a thought.  Lemon, supposedly a professional broadcast journalist, is, therefor incompetent as well as biased. He’s not doing his job; he’s abusing his position, and he’s cheating his audience. All of CNN’s anchors do this, but seldom to this extent. Does Lemon even know what moderating is?

B. My head lasted through this segment, but Walsh using the ridiculous, politically correct “straw person” twice almost did me in. The term is “strawman,’ and it refers to scarecrows, which, unless someone is trying to make a feminist point to birds, are made to look male. This is how Leftists make themselves look silly. I can’t take someone seriously who uses a phrase like “Straw person.” It’s as bad as “Hangperson.”

C. Lowry is quite right: if Walsh and Lemon believe that the NRA’s money is the reason why members of Congress don’t support gun restriction measures, then they are arguing that these members would vote for such measures without the contributions. They are exhibiting  a particularly crippling kind of bias. They believe that their position is so obvious, so correct, that nobody would ever sincerely oppose it unless they were bribed. It is also an unusually hypocritical argument for any partisan to make, as it can easily be turned around to make the same claim regarding legislators opposing “sensible abortion restrictions,” for example. I’m sure that legislators on both sides of the aisle have positions that they vote for to keep donors happy; I’m also sure that that many big interest group  donations go to politicians because they sincerely and enthusiastically support those interests, and would with or without the contributions.

D. Most of all: how useless, inarticulate. amateurish and chaotic can a segment be? You’re going to find out, unfortunately… Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Ten Points Regarding The Rob Porter/White House/Domestic Abuse Scandal…

1 We know that the FBI had told the Trump White House about allegations from Porter’s two ex-wives that he had been physically abusive. Apparently, the FBI did not confirm, or could not, that the accusations were true. The allegations were still sufficient to prevent Porter from getting security clearance, whether they were true or not. There are good reasons for this. That does not mean that it is fair that someone’s career can be derailed and his reputation smeared without proof of wrongdoing, but it is necessary.

2. The position of an employer that has its own integrity and reputation to protect when an explosive allegation of personal and criminal misconduct regarding an employee arises is an ethics conflict. The Golden Rule suggests that such an employer should not jettison such an employee absent due process and sufficient proof of wrongdoing. However, the greater duty in this case is to the administration.

3. Porter should have resigned. In fact, that he did not resign was the best reason to fire him. This was his domestic problem, and he had no right to  inflict it on the White House, even if he was innocent.

4. There was nothing inconsistent about President Trump’s tweets condemning domestic violence and regretting the lack of due process and fairness in the current #MeToo witch hunt environment. He is right on both counts. As usual, he was not as articulate as he needs to be when opining on such delicate topics. He is not going to become more articulate, however.

5. Porter’s denials of wrongdoing, absent more, should carry no more nor less weight than the accusations against him.

6. Nobody who does not know Porter, the women involved or the intimate details of their relationships should be saying things in public like “I believe the wives” or “I don’t believe them.”  This flips us back to “I believe Anita Hill but don’t believe that slut Paula Jones” territory. People believe who they want to believe. Women who accuse men of abuse have no more claim or right to be believed without evidence than any other accuser, including those who accuse you.

7. Domestic disputes are infamous for the frequency with which previously honorable combatants will use false or exaggerated accusations to gain legal leverage or for old-fashioned revenge. It is possible that Porter’s two wives want to destroy his life. They seem to be doing a good job of it, if that’s their objective. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: The French Anti-#MeToo Letter

This translated open letter received a lot of publicity last week, in part because the famous French actress Catherine Deneuve signed it (that’s her, above, with Harvey Weinstein) , along with writer/psychoanalyst Sarah Chiche,  author/art critic Catherine Millet, actress/writer Catherine Robbe-Grillet, journalist  Peggy Sastre (author/journalist) and writer/journalist Abnousse Shalmani. It was signed by over a hundred other women.

The entire letter is important, and should be read by anyone interested in this issue—and everyone should be interested. All of the letter is ethically dead on, except one crucial element: workplace harassment is not trivial, as the letter mistakenly suggests. The letter states near the beginning:

“This summary justice has already had its victims: men who’ve been disciplined in the workplace, forced to resign, and so on., when their only crime was to touch a woman’s knee, try to steal a kiss, talk about “intimate” things during a work meal, or send sexually-charged messages to women who did not return their interest.”

The French just do not get this. I have seen it, fought it, and trained companies about it: supervisors using the workplace as a dating bar harms women, even when the particular target is receptive. It is a crucial component of the glass ceiling and fuels sexual discrimination, every one of those behaviors mentioned above can create a hostile workplace. Men who engage in such conduct, if the conduct can be proven, should be disciplined, as a matter of policy and ethics.

The rest of the letter is excellent.

Rape is a crime. But trying to pick up someone, however persistently or clumsily, is not — nor is gallantry an attack of machismo.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal sparked a legitimate awakening about the sexual violence that women are subjected to, particularly in their professional lives, where some men abuse their power. This was necessary. But what was supposed to liberate voices has now been turned on its head: We are being told what is proper to say and what we must stay silent about — and the women who refuse to fall into line are considered traitors, accomplices!

Just like in the good old witch-hunt days, what we are once again witnessing here is puritanism in the name of a so-called greater good, claiming to promote the liberation and protection of women, only to enslave them to a status of eternal victim and reduce them to the defenseless prey of male chauvinist demons.

Ratting out and calling out Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/11/2018: “Clean-Up On Ethics Aisle 10!” Edition

Good morning…

1 “And the survey says…! The results of the polls in yesterday’s 1/10 warm-up (so far) are..

  • Chris Christie is the leader in the “most hubris” poll, with 38.53% of the vote, but its pretty close. I’m pretty sure “All of them” would be leading if I had included it.

(I voted for Steve Bannon.)

  • 50% voted that journalist interviewers should be trained to recognize and flag invalid rationalizations.

A solid second was the choice, “They couldn’t do it objectively,” at 43%

  • By a 2-1 ratio over either of the other choices, over 50% believe that Plan E, the 25th Amendment removal plot, should be thoroughly discredited but the news media won’t let it go.

2. I also worry about Bobby DarinYesterday’s lament about declining cultural literacy and how movie artists that we should remember for our society’s enlightenment, perspective and inspiration are increasingly falling into a dark memory hole is relevant to a current development on Broadway: “The Bobby Darin Story” will kick off the new “Lyrics” season from January. 20 to 22, with rising star Jonathan Groff as Darin. Bobby Darin, one of my favorite performers and an unusually versatile and eclectic one, died before he was 40 and just barely hangs on in the culture now, thanks to his classic recording of “Mack the Knife.” (Also this month, the jukebox musical about Darin, “Dream Lover,” opened in Sydney.) Everything about Darin has been unlucky, his bad fortune culminating in the weird 2004 biopic that starred Kevin Spacey as Bobby. The movie was a bomb, and Spacey’s ugly fall guarantees that the film will be seen  by future generations about as often as Annette in”Muscle Beach Party.” As the Cary Grant post noted, sometimes all it takes is a vivid reference to rescue a lost life of note.

Darin’s own lost life is itself an ethics thought experiment. He knew at a young age that he was not going to live long, because he had an irreparably damaged heart. His response was to be furiously creative and to live life at a mad and reckless pace. The new show’s director says, “He lived a gritty, driven life. He hurt people along the way and people hurt him.” Continue reading

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California’s Ethics Rot

This is the prevailing culture in the state Hillary Clinton won so overwhelmingly that she was able to claim that she really “won” the election. You don’t want to live in that culture. It opposes the Freedom of Speech.

Opposing free speech is unethical. It also is undemocratic. But Californians are increasingly incapable of seeing this. It is a case study in how a culture rots. Some recent examples of how the rot is proceeding.

I. Mean Facebook posts are crimes.

In 2016, Mark Feigin posted five insulting comments on the Islamic Center of Southern California’s Facebook page. Among them:

  • “THE MORE MUSLIMS WE ALLOW INTO AMERICA THE MORE TERROR WE WILL SEE.”
  • “PRACTICING ISLAM CAN SLOW OR EVEN REVERSE THE PROCESS OF HUMAN EVOLUTION.”
  • “Islam is dangerous – fact: the more muslim savages we allow into america – the more terror we will see -this is a fact which is undeniable.”
  • “Filthy muslim shit has no place in western civilization.”

As a result, California is prosecuting him for allegedly violating Cal. Penal Code § 653m(b):

Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device … to another person is … guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business.

A First Year law student of reasonable mental acuity could tell you in a trice that this was unconstitutional—that is, she could if she hadn’t been marinated in the anti-democratic culture that is 21st Century California. It is also an unethical and intellectually dishonest effort to use an ill-fitting law to punish “hate speach.” Here, in part, is the analysis of Prof. Volokh, a constitutional law specialist:

This can’t possibly be consistent with the First Amendment; indeed, in U.S. v. Popa (D.C. Cir. 1999), the D.C. Circuit set aside a telephone harassment conviction of someone who left seven racist messages on the voicemail of then-U.S.-Attorney Eric Holder; and the court focused on the “political message” of the speech, and not on Holder’s status as a government official. Given that insults targeted to a particular person, related to a political message, are thus constitutionally protected, so are more general insults aimed at an ideology and all its adherents, whether that ideology is Islam, Scientology, conservatism, gun rights, or anything else. Laws aimed at preventing unwanted repeated messages to particular private citizens shouldn’t be applied to messages sent to ideological organizations (or to public officials). And this is especially so when it comes to annoying Facebook posts, which the organization can simply block.

…I hope the court indeed promptly throws them out as unjustified under the statute, forbidden by the First Amendment, or both. But if the courts accept such charges, expect to see many more people, left, right, and otherwise, prosecuted for posting insulting messages on many groups’ web pages.

II. No free speech on campus without permission!
Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/22/2017: The Best Laid Plans….

GOOD MORNING!

I’m really trying hard to be positive today: guaranteed low traffic, behind the Christmas 8-ball, and last night I heard what is, along with the sound of an atom bomb, Nancy Pelosi’s voice, fingernails on a blackboard, and the screaming of the lambs, among the most horrible sounds in existence: that made by a fully decorated, 8-foot Christmas tree falling over….I don’t want to talk about it.

1 Leaks are unethical. What about this is so hard to understand? This story is being widely interpreted as meaning that the reassigned FBI attorney was one of the likely leakers in the agency. Lawyers leaking confidential information related to their representations is unethical, and ground for disbarment, and of course firing with cause. I hope to get to this in more detail  later, but the widespread attacks in the media on criticism from conservatives, Fox news and President Trump on the FBI is Bizarro World stuff. The FBI would have no leakers if it were professional, competent and trustworthy. None. The botched Clinton e-mail investigation and the Peter Strzok scandal are proof of deep, deep, incompetence and corruption.

2. Well, there goes Plan C! In discussing Plan J, also now on life support, I laid out the Democrats’ other nine plans to over-turn the election and overthrow the Trump Presidency by non-democratic means ( I also hope to get to this in more detail  later, but the widespread attacks in the media on statements from some conservatives and Fox News that Democrats and “the resistance,” aided by the news media, have been attempting a “coup” is Bizarro World stuff as well. The justification for the indignation is that the term coup usually implies a violent overthrow of a government, but there have been coups that were quiet, peaceful and non-violent as well. The key factor in coups is that they are illegal or extra-legal. Calling the various plans to undo a legal election too similar to a coup to ignore places what has been going on since last November in its proper, sinister perspective.

Again: Plan A was to reverse the election by hijacking the Electoral College. Plan B was pre-emptive impeachment. Plan C was the Emoluments Clause. Plan D was “collusion with Russia” (The New York Times, to give credit where it is due, actually created a chart to explain this one, and if it isn’t obvious to you how pathetically weak the case is, you played NFL football…), Plan E is”Trump is disabled because he’s a narcissist and a Republican, so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.”, Plan F, the Maxine Waters plan, is to just impeach the President because she really, really doesn’t like him, Plan G is “The President obstructs justice by firing incompetent subordinates,” Plan H is “tweeting stupid stuff is impeachable,” Plan I is “Let’s relentlessly harass him and insult him and obstruct his efforts to do his job so he snaps (see E) and does something really impeachable.” Plan J is to force Trump’s resignation based on alleged sexual misconduct that predated his candidac.

Plan C was just kicked out of court:

“Judge George B. Daniels of United States District Court in Manhattan found that the plaintiffs had failed to show that they had suffered as a result of specific actions by Mr. Trump intended to drum up business for his enterprises. . . . Beyond that, the judge found, the emoluments clauses of the Constitution are intended to protect the country against presidential corruption from foreign influences or financial incentives that might be offered by either states or the federal government. They were not meant to protect businesses from competition from presidentially owned enterprises, he ruled.”

Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “I’m Curious: Do Women—Any Women, A Lot Of Women, Adult Women, Rational Women—Think This Times Column Makes Sense? (Because It Doesn’t)”

(This is sort of what Juliet has in mind, I think...)

Juliet Macur’s column in the New York Times calling for what was essentially Old Testament Biblical vengeance against one of the more recently accused sexual harassers disturbed me greatly, and the resulting Ethics Alarms post reflected my reaction.  Steve-O-in NJ picked up the baton, and the result was this, his Comment of the Day on the post, I’m Curious: Do Women—Any Women, A Lot Of Women, Adult Women, Rational Women—Think This Times Column Makes Sense? (Because It Doesn’t):

The principle that those who do wrong should not be allowed to profit from their wrongs is not without basis in either ethics or the law. It is that principle which gave rise to the “Son of Sam” laws that allow suits against convicted criminals by their victims or the victims’ families if they receive assets from the sale of their stories. It is also that principle that sometimes leads to “Son of Sam” clauses being worked into plea agreements, whereby any profits made from the sale of a pleading wise guy or terrorist’s story goes to the government. Much more than that, and you run into First Amendment problems. It’s also a given that courts can order restitution to victims as part of a sentence or as part of a plea deal.

However, as pointed out above, all of these legal principles involve, presumably, a wrongdoer who has either had his day in court or decided to forego his day in court in the hopes of better terms. Even in an employment or other civil setting, an accused wrongdoer is not without rights. A company who not only terminated an accused harasser but stripped him of his pension and whatever other assets came with the position, all without so much as an investigation, would almost unquestionably find itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit, and could conceivably lose, which is why a lot of those situations resolve with a more favorable deal. In this case, the accused is choosing to walk away before it even comes to that, and cash out.

Juliet Macur is looking for blood, or the equivalent. I know the feeling, we all know the feeling, and writers and sports entertainers the world over know how to exploit that feeling very well. That’s why thrillers almost always end with the initial wrongdoer dead and WWE kayfabe angles always end with the heel badly injured and humiliated. We all have that urge to jump to revenge, that snap reaction of “why that blankety-blank, I’ll teach him!” Continue reading

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