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

Welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The same cannot be said of Bill Clinton.

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

It looks like it may finally blow.  Stay tuned.

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

Hmmm. Continue reading

The Alexander Acosta-Jeffrey Epstein Scandal

That’s Epstein…a popular guy.

You have to buckle your seat belt and read this story.

The Miami-Herald undoubtedly earned itself a Pulitzer Prize with its detailed and horrifying account of rigged justice involving jet set multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who parlayed money, connections, friends in high places and quite possibly extortion into a lighter-than-light sentence despite overwhelming evidence that over many years he had used his resources to gather “a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day…The eccentric hedge fund manager, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.”

The prosecutor who allowed Epstein to virtually escape accountability for crimes that make such recent cultural villains as Harvey Weinstein appear to be benign in comparison was the Trump Administration’s Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, then the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida.

Nobody’s talking, except the alleged victims, who are now mounting a legal challenge to the fiasco. Epstien’s lawyers, the kind of high-powered, high-priced super-team that only the richest of the rich can summon, included Allan Dershowitz, Roy Black and Ken Starr, among others, can’t discuss their representation under the rules of client confidentiality. So far, Acosta has been silent as well. The evidence that the paper’s investigation has uncovered—and again, don’t rely on this brief post, read the whole story—is persuasive, damning, and for me, someone who works in and with the legal profession, spiritually devastating. This, from the Maimi-Herald’s introduction and conclusion, provides some sense of the magnitude of the scandal: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/30/18: Double Standards, Signature Significance, Facebook Tricks, And Pettiness From Beyond The Grave!

Gliddy glup gloopy!!

1. Tennis Ethics: Yes, I’d call this a double standard…When I saw the headline at AOL— “The US Open has been accused of sexism after a female tennis player was slapped with a code violation for changing her top in the middle of a match”—I assumed that this was another bare-breasts equality story. No, it was even stupider than that. At the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows this week,  Alizé Cornet was playing Swedish star Johanna Larsson when Cornet realized she  had put her her top on backwards during a break.

So she quickly fixed the wardrobe malfunction on the court, briefly exposing her black sports bra. The Horror. The umpire slapped Cornet with a code violation, unsportsmanlike conduct. But male players frequently remove their shirts on the sidelines, and usually aren’t wearing any bra at all. Indeed, male player Novak Djokovic  removed his shirt on the same day Cornet received her warning. Women’s Tennis Association rules state that women are not allowed to change clothes while on the court, but there is no similar rule for men.

2. Signature significance for an unethical politician. (But it’s Andrew Cuomo, so we knew that anyway.) During the New York  gubernatorial candidates’ debate  between Governor Andrew Cuomo and actress-turned-politician Cynthia Nixon, there was this exchange,

Cuomo: Excuse me, can you stop interrupting? 

Nixon: Can you stop lying?

Cuomo: Yeah, as soon as you do!

The audience thought this was funny.

New Yorkers.

3. Today’s  alarming “Nah, [enter Social media of mega-tech company here]  doesn’t abuse its power 0r manipulate information for a political agenda! Why would anyone suggest such a thing?” note:

NPR, to its credit, published an investigative reporting piece debunking a popular anti-gun fake stat, one that David Hogg et al. have wielded repeatedly: the U.S. Education Department’s claim that in the 2015-2016 school year, “nearly 240 schools … reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.”  The NPR investigation findings:

“…NPR reached out to every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months and found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened. Child Trends, a nonpartisan nonprofit research organization, assisted NPR in analyzing data from the government’s Civil Rights Data Collection.

We were able to confirm just 11 reported incidents, either directly with schools or through media reports.

In 161 cases, schools or districts attested that no incident took place or couldn’t confirm one. In at least four cases, we found, something did happen, but it didn’t meet the government’s parameters for a shooting. About a quarter of schools didn’t respond to our inquiries.

“When we’re talking about such an important and rare event, [this] amount of data error could be very meaningful,” says Deborah Temkin, a researcher and program director at Child Trends.

Gee, ya think?

This statistic has been disputed before, but since the challenges came from conservative news media, the NRA or other Second Amendment supporters, the mainstream media kept using it, and I’m sure the Parkland kids will keep using it anyway, since facts seem to have little importance to them. National Public Radio, however, has been resolutely anti-gun for decades, and never saw a liberal cause it didn’t admire.

When a Facebook user shared the NPR article on Facebook, however, it was removed because, as Facebook informed him,  “it looks like spam and [it] doesn’t follow our Community Standards.” See?

Again: You cannot trust these companies or the people who run them. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: … And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting'”

 

Arthur in Maine, who has kindly featured me on his radio show and actually given me sufficient time to explain things without being cut off, submitted the following discourse focusing on my embarrassingly slow-to-form realization that all investigative reporting into political matters had to be considered as manipulated to serve some political agenda by the news organization.

I’ll have some observations at the end, but first, here is AIM’s Comment of the Day on Comment Of The Day: ‘“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting…”, And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting:

…Why are any of you – including Jack – surprised? Media is, first and foremost, a BUSINESS. It doesn’t sell news – it provides news as a mechanism for generating advertising (in the case of NPR, underwriting and/or listener) support.

The United States is one of the only so-called free nations that embraces the concept of objective media. In fact, the whole concept started in this nation – with Joseph Pulitzer (recognize the name?). In other words, the concept of objective media is an American conceit.

Pulitzer’s drive towards so-called “objective” media certainly raised standards, but it wasn’t due to the noble idea that newspapers – pretty much the only game in town at his time – should be objective. Pulitzer was the visionary who recognized that the way news was being reported was scaring off the advertisers, and the advertisers were way more important than the folks who plunked down a penny or two to buy a copy at the news stand.

American media at the dawn of the 20th century wasn’t dissimilar to the way it is today – and much like it has ALWAYS been in nations in which the media isn’t state-controlled. It’s rambunctious. It’s partisan. It wears its beliefs on its sleeve – both with regard to what it covers and the way it covers it. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: ‘“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting…”, And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting

This comment by Humble Talent, one of several COTD entries he has made lately, has to get up today before the ick that was the Alabama Senate Race subsides, and the comment feels moot—though it would not be.

But first, my epiphany about investigative reporting…

Humble’s comment made me realize something that was right in front of my eyes, and has been for a long time, and yet I never before connected the dots. This is especially galling because it involves distrust of the news media, and as you know, I think about this a lot.

What I only now realize, thanks to Humble Talent,  is that investigative reporting is virtually always partisan or agenda-driven one way or the other. It isn’t the highest form of journalism, as we of the post-Watergate era have been taught to believe. It may be the most sinister.

Journalists can’t investigate everything. They have to choose what to investigate, and when, and those choices are inevitably determined by biases and political agendas. If choices are made, and they have to be—what do we investigate, about who? When do we know we have something worth printing? When do we run it? What will happen if we do?—the choices will reflect biases, unless coins are flipped and lots are drawn.

I never thought about whether the timing of the Roy Moore teen dates stories the Post ran were timed to come out when they did. But Humble makes me think: did the Post bother to look for dirt on Jones? I doubt it. I think an editor said, “This guy Moore is horrible. I bet there’s some scandal out there that can take him down, maybe a sex scandal. Let’s dig.” The Post sees that as a public service—Moore is objectively horrible—but the “investigative reporting”  is essentially opposition research to benefit the Democratic candidate. Then the damning results of the investigation were published when they were deemed to be able to cause the most chaos in the campaign.

Why didn’t this occur to me when I was watching “Spotlight”? We see, in that film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into child abuse in the Boston Catholic Diocese, how the story was held up for months as a mater of tactics and politics. The story almost wasn’t run at all. Now, why did I just assume that it was random chance that…

  • The Harvey Weinstein esposé wasn’t released before the 2016 election?
  • Provocative passages in Barack Obama’s books about “considering” homosexuality and eating dog never were investigated or explored by the mainstream news media during the 2008 campaign?
  • The revelations about Hillary Clinton’s illicit private server were published by the Times 18 months before the election, giving her plenty of time to make them harmless?
  • No major news organization sought to do a Watergate-style investigation of the IRS sabotage of conservative group participation in the 2012 Presidential campaign, although the Obama Justice Department investigation was obviously a sham?

I’m an idiot. Was I the only one this gullible? I knew that the press could have ended JFK’s Presidency almost at will, but was intimidated out of doing so and wasn’t that unhappy about it. I knew the press intentionally kept the Clinton rape allegation from the public, for fear it would affect the impeachment outcome. I knew that CBS and Dan Rather’s investigative reporting about President Bush’s National Guard conduct was  devised and timed (and falsified) to give Kerry the election.

Investigative reporting regarding politics is always politically driven. It has to be.

Duh.

I am completely dedicated to the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of a free and unencumbered press. A democracy without a free press is doomed. I am also convinced that a free press that abuses its power and influence is as great a threat to democracy as no free press at all.

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting, Democrats, But You Can’t: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Washington Post Drops Its Resident Op-Ed Socialist. Good.”

Post paper

The honor of the first Comment of the Day in 2016 goes to pennagain, previously penn, who assesses the forces turning our journalistic establishment to ethics mush. It is not a pretty scenario, but well worth thinking about. He was inspired by my article about the Washington Post dropping socialist pundit Harold Meyerson in part because he wasn’t getting enough clicks. Where it stops, nobody knows.

Here’s pennagain:

Twelve [delivered Washington Post daily print editions in another commenter’s apartment building] down to two is about what the trend is for paper subscriptions running out, and free internet use taking over. In the short run, probably, the metro papers will all go behind the paywall while smaller ones hold out for local advertisers, but for now there is a steady drop in print and a rise in online subscriptions, with a (temporary) small increase in access to both. All news media — newspapers, television and radio — are losing ground to the fragmentation of the internet universe as it “narrowcasts” to further and further special interests. The long run is not a pleasant prospect.

In the meantime, the born-to-the-web generation has been raised on free news, as have a majority of the current readers who lost their home-delivered (now less than 400) newspapers.

My concern is that perception of news is probably down about the same (12:2) — the smaller the screen, the poorer the perception. Internet pages are awash with advertisements up and down the sides and through the middles, flashing and flickering, sounding out automatically (this is fairly recent distraction and, I think, a true impingement on privacy), not to mention the seductive invitations between paragraphs to links that frequently cut into the text itself.

In a medium where the whole story could be presented as such on one “page,” it is cut into pieces and continued-on other screens, each of which takes more and more time to load its own load of ads. More incentive for those not desperately hooked to the story to check out one of the links or the next site down the line instead of getting all the information saved for more advertising. Click.

Continue reading

The Problem In Ferguson Goes Deeper Than Racism…

A horror story lies within this map.

A horror story lies within this map.

….and focusing only on race just makes understanding and dealing with the real problems impossible. Nonetheless, activists, the news media and the government intentionally ignore the complexities involved, which collectively define a human tragedy and a failing of U.S. governments at all levels.

Washington Post writer Radley Balko has delivered a shocking, disturbing, depressing and eye-opening investigative report on how small municipalities in St. Louis County operate, and how demographic, political and economic trends inevitably cause the tensions and distrust we saw burst into conflagration in the wake of the Mike Brown shooting. If Balko does not win a Pulitzer for this marvel of reporting and analysis, then the awards should eliminated.

You must read the whole piece here. It’s unethical for a responsible citizen not to; I really believe that.  I was originally going to post some excerpts,but I’m not going to, because I know many will just read them and skip the whole, long report. This is a significant and brave work, and attention must be paid. Continue reading

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Stetson Kennedy (1916-2011)

And he gave his book to Superman...

Author and folklorist Stetson Kennedy, who died this week,  is another important and courageous American that most of us never heard of. Let’s try to catch up.

After a back injury kept him out of World War II, Kennedy began a lifetime career of crusading against bigotry and what he called “homegrown racial terrorists.” He served as director of fact-finding for the southeastern office of the Anti-Defamation League and as director of the Anti-Nazi League of New York.

In his 1954 book “I Rode With the Ku Klux Klan,” Kennedy wrote that he gained entrance to the Klan by posing as an encyclopedia salesman and using the name of an uncle who was a Klan member. While posing as a member, he learned many Klan secrets that he put to use undermining the organization’s reputation and support. With evidence he snatched from the Grand Dragon’s wastebasket, he gave the Internal Revenue Service what it needed to collect an outstanding $685,000 tax lien from the Klan in 1944, and he helped draft the brief used by the state of Georgia to revoke the Klan’s national corporate charter in 1947. He also testified in other Klan-related cases. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Peter Shellem (1960-2009)

Newspapers are on the ropes these days, and sometimes I am not sorry. Even the best of them are too often sloppy, superficial, biased and incompetent. If they go down for the count, however, we will dearly miss the likes of Peter Shellem, an old-fashioned gum-shoe reporter who used his professional skills not only to find the truth, but to save lives in the process.

If you were not a regular reader of  the Harrisburg, PA Patriot-News, the odds are that you never heard of Shellem. I  hadn’t, until I read his New York Times’ obituary this morning.  His passion was investigating the cases and prosecutions of convicted prisoners when something about their guilt didn’t seem quite right to him.  The Times notes that Defense attorney Barry Scheck called Shellem ” a one man journalism innocence project.”  Shellem’s investigations freed five wrongly convicted Americans, one of them who had been in jail 28 years, since he was fourteen.

A colleague at the Patriot-Ledger, in a remembrance, writes that Shellem did what he did because he was genuinely offended that our justice system could be so unjust. In this he was ahead of his time, for only recently, in the wake of the Duke lacrosse scandal, has the  extent and impact of prosecutorial excesses begun to inspire the media and law enforcement to scrutinize past convictions and current prosecutions with due skepticism.  There are more innocent people behind bars than we once believed, as well as many guilty prisoners who did not receive the rights guaranteed them as citizens. Peter Shellem didn’t help all of them directly, but his work did.

It appears that Peter Shellem committed suicide. Though he was apparently dissatisfied with his life, we should not be. His work was meaningful; his impact on the lives of others was profound, and his work set  high ethical standards for us all. His credo: If you see a wrong, fix it. If you recognize injustice, expose it. If you detect corruption, stop it.

We should all aspire to follow his example.