Regarding “Athlete A”….[Corrected!]

“Athlete A,” the Netflix documentary that tells the awful story of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s decades of sexually abusing young female gymnasts—perhaps as many as 500 of them—, how he was allowed to continue his crimes after complaints from parents and others, and the young women who finally sent him to prison with their testimony, is both disturbing and depressing. I watched it last night with my wife, who was horrified that she didn’t know the Nassar story.

Ethics Alarms wasn’t as much help as it should have been. Its first full post about the scandal was this one, which, in grand Ethics Alarms tradition, slammed the ethics of the judge who sentenced Nasser to 60 years in prison, essentially a “Stop making me defend Dr. Nasser!” post. I’ll stand by that post forever, but it didn’t help readers who are link averse to know the full extent of Nasser’s sick hobby of plunging his fingers and hands into the vaginas and anuses of trusting young girls while telling them that it was “therapy.”

The second full post, in August of last year,  was more informative regarding Nasser, but again, it was about the aftermath of his crimes, not the crimes themselves. That post  focused on the the Senate hearings following the July 30 release of the report of an 18-month Senate investigation  that found that the U.S. Olympic Committee and others failed to protect young female athletes from Nasser’s probing hands, detailing “widespread failure by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (the “Committee”) and other institutions to keep athletes safe.”  Then there was this: Continue reading

On The Recent Steele Dossier Revelations: An Open Letter To An Un-Named Former Ethics Alarms Commenter, Written In Disappointment And Disgust

Dear You Know Who You Are,

As you remember, well over a year ago you staged a grandstanding, insulting exit from participation on this blog, declaring that I had “drunk the Kool-Aid.”  Your false claim was provoked because I had successfully navigated through  lies, calculated disinformation and lawbreaking—engineered by those within and without the U.S. government—to conclude that a coordinated effort had been and was underway to overthrow the elected President of the United States. At this point, the fact that your accusation was based on your own blindness and bias is not subject to rational denial or debate.

I knew that at the time, of course. I also felt, and feel, that for you to behave that way, in public, here, was a personal as well as a professional betrayal. We had, I thought, a cordial and mutually respectful relationship. We had exchanged details about the high and low points of our lives face to face.  We are in the same field and profession. I trusted you.

I have provided you some slack in my ultimate judgment on your character because I know that, as we say here often, bias makes us stupid, even the best of us. I have seen this particular bias make many people, even some smarter than you, as difficult as it may be for you to conceive of that, both stupid and  destructive, apparently without a glimmer of self-realization. I recognize that it the phenomenon is, at this point, indistinguishable from an illness, one triggered by emotion and group-think. Thus I am, up to a point, sympathetic, just as I am regarding so many of my Facebook friends who figuratively make asses of themselves every single day  because they are addicted to “likes” and peer approval. Some of them are even lawyers, but you know…lawyers. That is a professional group, along with historians, politicians, historians, scholars, psychiatrist, educators and, of course, journalists, that has broken its duty of trust with the public as it joined a dangerous and unconscionable effort to break our democracy. Continue reading

Ethics Train Wreck Analysis: The Richard Jewell Case

“Richard Jewell,” Clint Eastwood’s excellent but much maligned film about a historical episode with many ethics twists and turns, is extremely accurate and fair in all respects, except for the glaring exception of the screenwriter  Billy Ray’s representation that reporter Kathy Scruggs obtained the information that Jewell was under suspicion by the FBI in exchange for one night stand with the agency’s lead investigator. This was the point where the Richard Jewell Ethics Train Wreck of 1996 acquired a car containing the 2019 movie “Richard Jewell.”

Let’s look at those other cars.

I. Jewell

Jewell was a socially awkward, lonely, obese man who lived with his mother. He was in many ways a stereotypical misfit with low  self-esteem, who developed ambitions about becoming a law enforcement officer, a job that would would provide him with the respect and power that he lacked and wanted. The film begins with Jewell’s stint as an office supply clerk in a small public law firm, where he becomes friends with attorney Watson Bryant. Jewell quits to pursue his dream of becoming a law enforcement officer, and Bryant, in saying good-bye, asks his friend to promise that if he ever acquires the authority he seeks, he won’t become a jerk, and abuse it.

This was a real life conversation. Bryant recognized that Jewell was a border-line Asperger’s sufferer, whether or not he knew the name or the clinical condition, and exactly the kind of personality who should never be given a shield and a gun.

Jewell took a job as a campus security officer at Piedmont College, and rapidly realized Watson Bryant’s worst fears by reacting to his authority by abusing it, being over-zealous and generating an unusual number of complaints from students. Jewell was fired, but the need for security personnel at the upcoming Atlanta Olympics gave Jewell another chance at some authority at least. He probably shouldn’t have had such a chance. Jewell was not a man who should have been in the security field or the law enforcement field; his judgment was poor, and his emotional problems made him a bad risk.

Thus the conditions for the ethics train wreck were put in place. It was up to moral luck whether hiring Richard Jewell would turn out to be a disaster, or a  fortunate near miss. Instead, it turned out to be something else entirely, a classic example of a bad decision having a good result—at least for a while.

2. The Bomb

In the early morning of July 27, 1996, Jewell, now working in Atlanta’s Centennial Park as part of the Summer Olympics security force, noticed an abandoned backpack by a bench. Over-zealous, officious and a fanatic about following procedure, Jewell insisted on reporting the pack as a “suspicious package,” despite the chiding of his colleagues, who wanted to take it to Lost and Found. If, as was overwhelmingly likely, the backpack had been just a backpack, Jewell probably would have been mocked. But again moral luck took a hand. He was right. It was a bomb. Jewell and other officers began clearing the area, and the bomb went off, killing one victim, Alice Hawthorne, and wounding many, still  far less serious damage than what might have occurred had Jewell not been so scrupulous in his discharge of his duties.

3. The Hero, the Scapegoats, and the Tip
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Ethics Catch-Up, 12/12/2019: Special Two-Day Edition!

So far, this pre-Christmas slog has been especially horrible.

This post started out as yesterday’s potpourri, and I was interrupted just as I was about to post it. So now its a two-day edition.

1. The IG’s report embraces Hanlon’s Razor. What the report on the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged “collusion” says is that he Inspector General could find no documentation of a “conspiracy” or bias against the President, but that the FBI’s conduct was remarkably inept throughout. Hanlon Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

When the AG says that the FBI handling of the investigation raises questions about how it conducts itself in more routine matters, isn’t the obvious next step to find out? If the evidence shows that the FBI doesn’t make such “mistakes” normally, only in a situation—the investigation of a Presidential candidate from the party opposite from the one currently represented in the White House—where one would assume special care would be applied, what would that tell us? One of the AG’s revelations is that “an F.B.I. official who had to sign an affidavit attesting to the accuracy and completeness of a court filing had specifically asked about any relationship with the C.I.A. Mr. Clinesmith altered the email so that it stated that Mr. Page was “not a source,” contributing to the Justice Department’s failure to discuss his relationship with the C.I.A. in a renewal application.”

That’s interesting. And why did he lie? Just “sloppiness”? At some point, repeated errors begin suggesting bias and intent.

It is astounding that James Comey is crowing in the media about the report, when the agency he led showed itself to be thoroughly incompetent at the exact moment when trust and care were most essential. He should hide his head in a bag, as Justice Scalia liked to say.

2. Ann Althouse reads Jamelle Bouie so I don’t have to. Thanks, Ann! After making Bouie an Ethics Dunce numerous times and finding him to be biased, anti-white fool who had no business being published in any fair and responsible conversation, I stopped reading him. Fortunately, Ann Althouse has a stronger stomach than I do, and pointed readers to “Two Articles of Impeachment for Trump Are Nowhere Near Enough/The House should take its own sweet time and investigate many more aspects of the president’s perfidious behavior,”  where he openly analyzes the Democratic impeachment follies as tactic to affect the 2020 election, and, ethics-challenged that he is, endorses that clear abuse of the Constitution, writing in part,

Democrats, in other words, can use the power of impeachment to set the terms of the next election — to shape the national political landscape in their favor. In a political culture governed by negative partisanship and hyperpolarization, restraint won’t save the Democratic majority. But a relentless anti-Trump posture — including comprehensive investigations and additional articles of impeachment — might just do the trick.

He’s scum, pure and simple.

Ann responds, “Does he not hear what he is saying?! He’s telling Democrats to drop the pretense of principle and patriotism and go all out for political advantage.”

3. Benefit of the doubt! That’s rich. The New England Patriots are again implicated in a cheating controversy. I have no read several commentaries, mostly from Boston source, arguing that the team “deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

This is the most unethical, untrustworthy, win-at-all-costs team in a sports league that has no problem crippling young athletes for profit. Sure, it should be proven guilty on facts, not presumption, but a history of being deceptive and breaking rules at very least removes the “How can anyone think we would do such a thing?” factor.

4. Top stories? Below are the results of a poll that tried to determine what the public considered the “top stories” of 2019 according to the proportion of those polled who “heard a lot about” each, by party affiliation.

5.  This is propaganda, not news reporting. Time Magazine, which admittedly is an animated journalistic corpse these days, still makes headlines with its choice of its “Person of the Year,” but that nostalgic notice won’t last much longer with selections like this year’s honoree:  teenage climate change scold Greta Thunberg. The choice is dishonest, manipulative, and absurd. Her impact has been nil; her expertise is imaginary; her cause is futile, and her rhetoric is insulting and hysterical. Few Americans know her name, and the number is still higher than it should be.

Of course, the idiocy of Time’s choice doesn’t excuse President Trump’s gratuitous tweet mocking her and the selection. This is beneath him, or should be. I grasp his logic: since the mainstream media will treat the ridiculous choice with reverence, being all-in on climate change hysteria, so he has to publicize the truth. Sometimes that logic is valid, but not when it comes to punching down at a manipulated and exploited child, which is what Thunberg is. Continue reading

High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/2019: Arggh!…Yay!…Yechhh!…Hmmm…and Good!

Mornin’!

1. More historical ignorance to make you suicidal: Here’s Anna L.’s review of her visit to the Gettysburg Battlefield on the park’s Yelp page:

Boooorrrringggg. First off, it was nothing like the movie. All I saw were a bunch of fields and rocks. All the tourist shops, bars, and hotels in the area kept saying how I should check this place out. I kept getting confused with all of the plaques and monuments. Who was fighting who, I have no idea. The abandoned cannons looked tacky. I give this one star for the overweight character actor in the square, but that’s about it. Yaaawnnn.

I don’t even want to think about the political positions and favored candidates of an American this…this…I can’t even think of a good description. “It was nothing like the movie”????? And how many people like her are out there, rotting our culture and values from within?

Arrgh.

2. It’s about time. wouldn’t you agree? I’m amazed this took so long. Starting next year, BMC Toys in Scranton will begin adding  little green  Army women to the little green Army men that are such a standard kids’ toy. Since they debuted in 1950s, none of the iconic toy’s  manufacturers  have crossed the gender line. BMC is one of the  ew producers of plastic soldiers left in his country, and will soon be offering these:

Yay! Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Labor Day Weekend Kick-Off Ethics Warm-Up: The ‘I’m Baaaack!’ Edition” [Item #3]

I’m still not ready to post the COTD from the Battle of the Ethics Alarms Stars in the recent open forum, but that will be up tomorrow. This comment by Greg involves the ongoing news media effort to spin and bury the Inspector General’s report yesterday explaining what an untrustworthy disgrace to the FBI James Comey was.

I like Greg’s comment for three reasons: it is concise and well-written, it is about one of the most important topics here, which is how the news media has abandoned integrity and responsible reporting for propaganda and efforts to manipulate public opinion,  and because it saved me a post, since I had been preparing to write a similar essay after reading and listening to the usual media suspects.

I will say up front that Greg’s last sentence is too pessimistic. Abe was right, as I know I say too many times: you can’t fool all of the people all the time. The news media is destroying its own credibility even with those who are naive, lazy and gullible. It keeps doing this—burying stories that the pubic has a right to know but that undermine the media’s narrative, what Joe Biden and the Democrats regard as “the truth” that doesn’t  rely on facts, and little by little even its most stubborn defenders (those who aren’t corrupt) are figuring out that they have been conned. Right now I’m thinking of a lamented Ethics Alarms exile who accused me of “drinking the Kool-Aid” before he left. He’s biased, and he was gullible, but he’s not an idiot, not by any means. He knows he was wrong, and I was right by now. Sadly, he apparently doesn’t have fortitude to come crawling back with the apology he owes me. Well, that’s his tragedy.

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on Item #3 of the post, “Labor Day Weekend Kick-Off Ethics Warm-Up: The “I’m Baaaack!” Edition.”

The frustrating thing, though, is that most of the public has been misinformed and deceived about the Inspector General’s report. Comey immediately claimed the report had cleared him, on the grounds that it said he did not leak “classified” information. You know and I know that nobody had ever accused Comey of leaking national security secrets, so the report had “cleared” him of an accusation that had never been made, while finding him guilty of all of the accusations that had actually been made. But most people have no idea about this.

For a few minutes after the report came out, MSNBC, CNN and the other usual suspects played it straight: they admitted that the report was damning of Comey. But then they immediately fell into line: The IG had “cleared” Comey of leaking classified information but “criticized” him for “violating departmental policy.” It had “criticized” him, “scolded” him and “reprimanded” him; but it had “failed to vindicate” Trump and had “contradicted Trump’s accusations.” The IG’s report “found that no crimes were committed” and “acknowledged that Comey was candid with investigators.” It contained “nothing new that hasn’t been known for two years.” And, of course, Republicans have “pounced” on the report to make a “power grab.” The New York Times editorialized that the report was “boring,” while criticizing the IG for making a fuss about nothing. The Washington Post editorialized that “Comey saved democracy with his memos.” Continue reading

Labor Day Weekend Kick-Off Ethics Warm-Up: The “I’m Baaaack!” Edition

Excellent work in the Open Forum, everybody.

Thank-you.

As it happened, there would have been no way I could have written a post yesterday, except after I arrived home following a 6 hour drive from New Jersey following my three-hour seminar. At the point, however, my IQ had fallen below Joe Biden levels, so it would have been unethical for me to opine or analyze anything. I’m slightly better now, at the Kamala Harris level and rising, so I’m going to get right back on the metaphorical horse.

I hate missing a day like that, mostly because it puts me behind in covering the ethics news, but also because I view Ethics Alarms as a commitment to the loyal readers who come here.

1. Well this is good news…The College Board is dropping its proposed “adversity score” from the SAT. The ill-considered device, which Ethics Alarms metaphorically spat at here, would have assigned a score based on the socioeconomic background of each student, artificially raising his or her score based on socioeconomic circumstances.

Of course, this was an unusually transparent ploy to facilitate race-based college admissions .As I wrote in May,

This is a cynical and dishonest device to give cover to colleges and universities as they try to base their admissions on race and ethnicity while avoiding legal prohibitions on discrimination based on race and ethnicity. That is all it is, and exactly what it is.

2. And MORE good news! A new Rasmussen Reports survey shows that most voters believe the average journalist is liberal, and few are conservative. Moreover, a majority believe it is appropriate for politicians to criticize reporters and hold them to the same scrutiny as those they cover.

Of course  it is. For more than three years, we have been hearing that President Trump’s condemnations of the news media and specific news organizations and journalists represent a threat to the freedom of the press and democracy. For those same three years, the Ethics Alarms position has been that while the President’s rhetoric and tone is often irresponsible, the threat to democracy is being created by a mainstream media journalistic establishment that is no longer interested in being fair or objective, not by criticism of this dangerous trend.

The survey analysis found that 61% of likely U.S. voters believe reporters at major news organizations are public figures who deserve critical scrutiny of their conduct and biases.  Only 61%? 19% directly disagree with that contention. How  can they disagree? What would give journalist the unique right to be immune from criticism of bias, competence, and abuse of power? Elected officials are not immune, nor are scholars, artists, lawyers or judges. Continue reading

Observations On The Senate Olympics Investigation Report

An 18-month Senate investigation resulted in a searing report that found the U.S. Olympic Committee—among others— failed to protect young female athletes from sexual abuse. On July 30, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) released the long report  detailing “widespread failure by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (the “Committee”) and other institutions to keep athletes safe.”

The effort was sparked by the ugly scandal surrounding Dr. Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics team doctor, who was sentenced to up to 175 years in a Michigan prison after it was revealed i 2016 that he had sexually abused and assaulted hundreds of female athletes.

The report and its contents have not received sufficient publicity in mainstream media sources, and one is left to speculate on why. The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection found that, from summer 2015 to September 2016,  Olympic organizations hid the extent of Nassar’s crimes from the public and athletic community “to the detriment of dozens of women and girls who were sexually abused during this period of concealment.”

Those “other institutions” impugned in the 235-page report included the FBI. “The FBI failed to pursue a course of action that would have immediately protected victims in harm’s way. Instead, the FBI’s investigation dragged on and was shuffled between field offices,” the report states. This was not, as many media reports misleadingly suggest, just a failure of sports organizations. “Hundreds of women and girls were sexually abused by Larry Nassar” when basic competence, concern and diligence in many organizations, including law enforcement, would have saved them.

Observations: Continue reading

Ethics Observations As An Ex-FBI Agent Is Sentenced To Four Years in Prison For Leaking Documents To The News Media

From the Times story:

By the time Terry J. Albury arrived in Minneapolis in 2012, about 11 years after he went to work for the F.B.I., he had grown increasingly convinced that agents were abusing their powers and discriminating against racial and religious minorities as they hunted for potential terrorists.

The son of an Ethiopian political refugee, Mr. Albury was the only African-American field agent assigned to a counterterrorism squad that scrutinized Minnesota’s Somali-American community. There, according to his lawyer, he became disillusioned about “widespread racist and xenophobic sentiments” in the bureau and “discriminatory practices and policies he observed and implemented.”

In 2016, Mr. Albury began photographing secret documents that described F.B.I. powers to recruit potential informants and identify potential extremists. On Thursday, he was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty last year to unauthorized disclosures of national security secrets for sending several of the documents to The Intercept, which published the files with a series titled “The F.B.I.’s Secret Rules.”

Observations:

1. GOOD!

2. Whether Albury’s perceptions of discrimination were accurate or not, they were not excuses for breaking the law. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/11/18: As They Read The Names Of The Twin Towers Bombing…

Sad morning….

1. Serena ethics updates An indignant Facebook friend appeals to authority by telling me that  Chris Evert and Billie Jean King are defending Williams, and that they know more about professional tennis than I do. That’s a classic appeal to authority, and a very lame one. What a surprise that female tennis superstars have each others’ back! Chris and Billie Jean sure aren’t ethicists. I’d love to interview them. “So you believe that coaching from the stands, even though forbidden by the rules, should be allowed? Do you think that an unknown player who behaved like Serena did would have been treated any differently? Do you think that anyone would be supporting her if she were penalized? Since the record shows that Ramos does not treat men any differently than he treats women on the court, doesn’t Serena owe him an apology? Can you comprehend why calling a ref, whose reputtaion depends on being regarded as fair and unbiased, a “thief” is worse that calling him a “four-letter word”?

I can play the biased expert witness game too: here’s Martina Navratilova’s op ed, which is comparatively ethically astute and tracks with my post in many respects.

The polls about Mark Knight’s “racist and sexist” cartoon has these results:

85% side with Knight. I’d love to hear the explanation of the one voter who said the cartoon was sexist but not racist.

The reason I made the issue an ethics quiz is because I’m really torn in the issue. Yes, cartoons of blacks employing exaggerated features naturally evoke Jim Crow and minstrel show racist images. But political cartoons exaggerate features, often in unflattering ways. That’s the art form. Does this mean that blacks are immune from ever being portrayed cruelly in a political cartoon? I think that’s what the anti-Knight contingent is arguing.

My view is that double standards are destructive and unethical. By the by, were Jimmy Carter’s lips that big?

Continue reading