Tag Archives: “innocent until proven guilty”

Comment Of The Day: “THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—’Cultural Vandalism’!”

Another perspective on the question  of how the personal and professional misconduct of artists should affect our regard for their art comes from Curmie, a drama teacher, director and blogger who has as deep credentials for this topic as anyone.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—“Cultural Vandalism”!…

Back in graduate school, I worked as a teaching assistant to a brilliant professor, Ron Willis, in his Introduction to Theatre class. Seitz’s commentary intersects with two of the concepts Ron highlighted in his course. The first of those is what Ron called para-aesthetics: those elements which affect an audience’s reception of an aesthetic event without being the aesthetic event.

These can be entirely coincidental (it’s pouring rain) or created specifically by the production company (the poster). The company many have had some, but not complete, control over the influence (there’s insufficient parking, in part because of another event in the area). The para-aesthetic influence could apply to the entire audience (the leading actor is a big star, the auditorium is freezing) or to an individual (the leading actor is your best friend, the person next to you thinks that showers are for other people, you’ve had a couple glasses of wine before the show).

The fact that a Bill Cosby’s off-camera life has been considerably short of exemplary matters in a para-aesthetic way. But each individual spectator will respond differently to each impulse. That leading actor—my best friend—is someone else’s ex. Facebook tells me that a year and a day ago I saw a play in London with a young movie star in the title role. His presence mattered to me not a bit, but there were dozens if not hundreds of his fans in the house: people who were there specifically to see him. That play was an adaptation of a script I adore and indeed directed a few years ago. The fact that the play as presented bore little if any resemblance to the original bothered me a lot; those who didn’t know the 19th-century version were far more able to accept the 21st-century revision on its own terms. Continue reading

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Messy Case, Messy Issues, Messy Commentary: The Trials of Curtis Flowers

The basic facts of the Curtis Flowers murder case are these: On the morning of July 16, 1996, someone walked into a furniture store in downtown Winona, Mississippi, and shot four employees in the head. Police charged  Curtis Flowers with all four murders. After 22 years of trials, mistrials and reversals, Flowers has faced juries six times for the same crime. He has been on death row since the first conviction, and the most recent one is being appealed. Many believe he is innocent.

I think it can be stipulated that this has been a badly botched prosecution, whether Flowers is innocent or not. There is no limit on how many times someone can be tried for the same crime, as long as the trials end in mistrials or convictions. The Flowers case suggests that we need a limit. If the system can’t get a conviction properly after a reasonable number of attempts—I don’t know what a reasonable number is, but I am confident that it is less than six—then the accused should go free. So far, Flowers has been in prison for over two decades without being convicted. That’s wrong.

It would be nice and reassuring if a knee-jerk liberal columnist like the New York Times’ David Leonhardt, whose background is in journalism and mathematics, not law, could inform the public about an outrageous case like this without mucking it up with ideological leaps of logic, unwarranted conclusions and progressive talking points. He can’t help himself, though.

Pity.

For his entire op-ed, he relies on this podcast about the case. A podcast about a legal case is like a documentary: it has a point of view baked into it. I admire the podcast, but it isn’t evidence. It isn’t the trial transcripts, or the decisions overturning the three convictions that were found to be flawed. Never mind: the Times writer sees “no good reason to believe that Curtis Flowers is guilty.” Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Eric Schneiderman Scandal

I probably shouldn’t say this, but the guy always looked a little scary to me….I sure would never get in bed with him.

The New Yorker revealed yesterday that four women who had relationships with Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, accused him of violent abuse. In response, he  issued the kind of explanation that is usually as damaging as the allegations it responds to : Schneiderman, 63, denied abusing the women, and said, “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”

Ah! As long as it’s not rape, he’s OK with it then.

This did not help. Demands that Schneiderman resign flooded the internet and airwaves, including one from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. By the end of the day, Schneiderman, who had been a champion of both the #MeToo movement and the anti-Trump “resistance,” had resigned. His statement:

“In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me. While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time. I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”

The irony and hypocrisy are strong with this one. In 2010, as a state senator, he introduced a bill to make intentional choking to the point of unconsciousness a violent felony. Coincidentally, one of his accusers quoted in the New Yorker revealed

“It just came out of nowhere. My ear was ringing. I lost my balance and fell backward onto the bed. I sprang up, but at this point there was very little room between the bed and him. I got up to try to shove him back, or take a swing, and he pushed me back down. He then used his body weight to hold me down, and he began to choke me. The choking was very hard. It was really bad. I kicked. In every fiber, I felt I was being beaten by a man.”

 The state chapter of the National Organization for Women, Bill Clinton’s fan club, endorsed Schneiderman in his successful bid for attorney general, citing his “unmatched work” in “protecting women who are victims of domestic abuse.” Once elected, his office published a “Know Your Rights”  brochure for victims of domestic violence…you know, when you get beat up by the man you are sleeping with.  Schneiderman had rushed to the front of the #MeToo movement, filing a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein’s company and seeking to re-open a prosecution against the harraser/abuser/rapist mogul.

“We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here,” Schneiderman said of Weinstein’s conduct.

Weeeell, that may depend on one’s point of view. For example, one of the ex-AG’s bed-mates told The New Yorker, “We could rarely have sex without him beating me….He started calling me his ‘brown slave’ and demanding that I repeat that I was ‘his property.’”

Nice. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/13/18: Bad Quotes, Faithless Speakers

GOOD MORNING!

1 O.J. was guilty??? I’m shocked! I was going to run a quiz about whether Fox broadcasting the 12-year-old O.J. Simpson interview in which he “hypothesizes” about what really happened—when Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman ended up with the lives stabbed out of them and a trail of O.J.’s blood leading from the scene to his home—was unethical or just icky, as in “revolting taste.”

Never mind: I’m willing to say it was unethical. Fox was aiding and abetting a murderer’s efforts to cash in on his crimes. Yes, yes, I know: in the eyes of the law, Simpson is innocent. But Fox, and you, and I, and O.J.’s lawyers and certainly O.J. all know beyond a shadow of doubt that he did it, and Simpson deserves a full shunning from the culture in every respect.

Fox, many forget, produced this interview as part of the promotion for O.J.’s book, “If I Did It,” written by a ghostwriter after interviews with Simpson. Simpson got $600,000 in the deal, denying later that he had anything to do with the project, and saying, “Hey, they offered me $600,000 not to dispute that I [wrote] the book…Everybody thinks I’m a murderer anyway. They’re not going to change their mind just because of a book.”

The consensus is that the Simpson’s statements in the Fox interview amount to a confession to double murder. I saw the key portion in a promotion,, where O.J. says that he remembers being at Nicole’s home, grabbing a knife, then seeing lots of blood…but not remembering what happened in between. But Simpson is a liar and a sociopath, and because of double-jeopardy, he can say that he watched Nicole and Ron get attacked by an army of zombies he recruited and it wouldn’t make any difference.

The degree to which Fox debased itself by running this offal cannot be exaggerated, and anyone who watched it without being paid to do so is an accessory after the fact to the unjust enrichment of O.J. Simpson.

2. Bonus O.J, ugliness: Read this hateful, racist, biased and legally ignorant essay by Michael Herriot at “The Root.” Herriot is another of many contributors to CNN whose anti-white racism is palpable, but deemed acceptable mainstream punditry. How deep and widespread is this kind of blind, unreasoning hatred of white Americans in the black community? How can anyone read something like this and wonder where the upsurge in white nationalism comes from?

3. And speaking of CNN’s  race-baiters…Here is Van Jones on his newly minted CNN show, whining and grovelling to Oprah Winfrey:

“It meant so much to us, and, you know, I have to let you know how it is for us now. We had you. We had the Obamas in the White House. Even on a bad day, you had a north star. You had some hope. And then it was like the universe looked just said, psych! And threw us in the toilet and closed the lid and now we’re just stuck in this crazy situation, swirlingHelp us, though, help us though!…I go out there and I try to tell people, let’s not become what we are fighting. Let’s not be what we’re fighting. They tell me, shut up, Van, because we got bigots out here, we got Nazis out here, we’re getting bullied, we are tired of going high. We want to go low and kick them in the private parts!”

There is disturbing evidence that “the resistance” and the anti-Trump mob, including the news media, is heading into a new and even more deranged stage, which is scary, since the previous stage has been putting unprecented stress on the nation’s mental and political health. We saw this deterioration with Jill Abramson’s open admission that she keeps a totem of Barack Obama in her purse to stave off despair. We are seeing more and more alternate-reality rants, like this one by David Remnick in “The New Yorker.”

The rhetoric is getting more shrill and hyperbolic every day, even when the news is good. At least Paul Krugman is consistent: his rhetoric about Trump has been shrill and hyperbolic from the start. Here he is this morning:

“Now, it’s a commonplace, but also a euphemism, to say that Trump has authoritarian instincts. A more accurate statement would be that he expects the kind of treatment tin-pot dictators demand, free from any criticism inside or outside his government and greeted with constant hosannas of praise. And everyone who isn’t willing to play the full game, who has tried to play by something resembling normal democratic rules, seems to be fleeing the administration. Soon only the shameless sycophants will be left. This will not end well.”

Sigh. All of America’s strong Presidents have had autocratic instincts, with the arguable exception of George Washington. Jackson, Polk, Lincoln, Cleveland, Teddy, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Ike,  LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton. Obama did as well, though he wasn’t a strong President. It’s just that people like Krugman are so offended by Trump being President that when he behaves essentially like the rest, they think it’s sinister. The complaining about this President surrounding himself with yes-men is especially hypocritical, since there were few complaints from the same critics about President Obama’s dangerously deferential inner circle, bolstered by a worshipful rather than properly objective press.

Krugman’s title is “Springtime for Sycophants.” Trump is Hitler, get it? 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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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/19/2017: ‘Due Process? We Don’ Need No Stinkin’ Due Process!’

Good Morning!

(Lights on the tree about 30% done, and the prickle wounds aren’t infected so far..)

1 Now, now, let’s not forget the wisdom of Joseph Goebbels...More questions about the objectivity, professionalism and fairness of the Meuller investigation are roiling D.C., even though the President isn’t about to fire the Special Counsel, though the mainstream news media went out of its way last week to make you think he was.

For example, were you following the Bruce Ohr fiasco? The former associate deputy attorney general, who was supposed to appear yesterday before the leaky Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday but didn’t, was demoted by the Justice Department when it was revealed that he had not disclosed that he had met with with officials from Fusion GPS, the people who prepared the salacious and discredited “Trump dossier.” Ohr had been part of the Meuller investigation too, but then it was learned that that his wife not only worked for Fusion GPS,  she worked on the anti-Trump opposition research that was apparently paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Is it partisan to question  how Meuller allowed people like Ohr and Strzok to be on his team in the first place? No, it’s not. In fact, it’s partisan NOT to ask that.

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers have challenged Mueller’s grab of transition team e-mails as a likely breach of attorney client privilege. (This will be in my next year’s Government Lawyer Ethics seminar for sure.) Writes attorney Robert Barnes, in part, on LawNewz:

According to published reports, Special Counsel Robert Mueller engaged in a mass seizure of all emails of the Trump transition team without even a warrant or a subpoena. In my opinion, a mass seizure – as is alleged here against Mueller – cannot conform to either Fourth Amendment standards or attorney-client privilege protections. The questions boils down to this: was there a reason for the individuals communicating by email, including with their lawyers, to believe their communications were private or privileged? Or, did the individuals forever waive or “implicitly consent” to any future search or seizure of their emails?

…The Mueller search runs afoul of many…established court precedents and Fourth Amendment privacy and privilege principles. First, it appears Mueller searched and seized every email, without any kind of categorical or keyword search. This is exactly the kind of search the Supreme Court made clear was not allowed under the Fourth Amendment. This means Mueller can only prevail if he didn’t seize a single email of a single individual that the individual could have any expectation of either personal privacy or attorney client privilege in.

The primary excuses proffered so far for the broad seizure is the faulty assumption the use of a government server waived all privacy and all privilege of every email ever made over that server. As identified above, that has never been the law…

These are legitimate issues, yet the media, as usual, is soft-peddling them and spinning them as mere Trump obstruction. Worse, however are the multiple Democrats, including a Senator on CNN yesterday, who I have heard repeat a version of the despicable statement that recently earned New York Times editors a collective Ethics Dunce: “If he’s innocent, he has nothing to worry about.”

Please, please reassure me that we don’t have a major political party that is circulating that motto of despots, grant inquisitors, dictators and the Salem witch trial judges as a talking point. Please!

Continue reading

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Plan J From Outer Space, And Related Scary Tales

All right, all right, “Plan J” is not really from outer space.  It’s really from the ever fertile mind of Democrats and the resistance, who are now dedicating their efforts on a new, weird, cultural theory to get rid of Donald Trump, one that has its dark routes in Salem, Massachusetts. Plan J—that’s my name for it, not theirs, as I explained here—isn’t quite as bizarre as the Ed Wood camp classic the headline evokes, “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” (If you’ve never seen it, shame on you: you can become culturally literate here) but it’s a lot scarier.

As it has been recently defined, Plan J holds that if  women, who must be believed, accuses a man of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, no matter how long ago the alleged offense occurred, whether or not it relates to the accused individual’s current psoition,  whether there is any supporting evidence, whether the alleged incident or incidents were a criminal or a civil violation, regardless of how serious they were and regardless of whether the alleged offender denies the allegations or whether the accusations were known to those who placed him or her in their current position, the targeted individuals must be shunned, punished, and forced into virtual exile, if not erased from the culture entirely.

By establishing the new due process-bypassing, proportion-defying and fairness-erasing  social norm, those who have seen their Plans A through I (also enumerated here) either fail miserably or founder have new hope that they may  yet force the President of The United States to resign, thus bypassing those messy and inconvenient things called “elections.”  In order to set this bold new social norm, every celebrity or powerful person who even vaguely fits a Trumpish template regarding accusations of sexual misconduct must be hounded, attacked, derided or shamed.

It’s really remarkable. Of course, Plan J only became feasible as a result of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and the subsequent rush of #MeToo-ers to see who they could take down, rightly or wrongly.

There is a certain perverted brilliance to Plan J. Sexual harassment is a filthy, unethical perk of the powerful that had been allowed to harm too many for too long, and was an accepted feature of too many cultures, like government, business, and show business.  Thus the pent-up fury sparked by the revelations about Weinstein was justified. But as with The Terror that followed the French Revolution, the legitimate anger and determination to reform the culture also created a different kind of power that corrupted the reformers. The ability to destroy with a pointed finger is intoxicating.

In many cases, the results have been beneficial: the identification of corrupt cultures and the unmasking of genuine workplace predators like Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Matt Lauer. In other cases, the fates of the accused have seemed wildly disproportionate to the offenses, although often the reaction of the accused have hastened their demise. The tally of individuals taken down by this frenzy now totals 97 men and one woman—Wait! Make that 98 men: Jerry Richardson, the owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, announced that he was selling his team hours after the NFL announced that it would be investigation sexual misconduct claims against him.  Thus Plan J was born: Hey! Why not President Trump?

If due process and sufficient evidence weren’t required to destroy so many others who once had power and influence, surely Sen Kristin Gillibrand’s insistence that as long as she and enough Trump-hating journalists found his accusers “credible,” the fact that none of the alleged acts were criminal, that they did not occur while he was in office and could not possibly be impeachable, and the fact that he was elected with the public’s full knowledge of the allegations were no longer a bar to an effort to force him to resign.

Plan J!

It

Just

Might

WORK!

There are logical and ethical problems that have to be steamrolled in the process, however, if “the resistance’s” dream is to come true. For the principle that any alleged sexual misconduct that a elected official may have engaged in before being elected to become the rule, a lot of lesser figures have to be sacrificed, along with a lot of tenets of basic fairness. For example: Continue reading

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