Ethics Escape, 8/24/2020: The “Not Watching The GOP Convention” Edition

The fact that Bill Clinton was going to speak at the Democratic National Convention was sufficient to justify my personal boycott of that event, and the fact that Scott Baio (“Happy Days,” “Charles in Charge,” “Joanie Loves Chachi”) is speaking at this convention is enough to to keep me away from the Republicans. I assumed that Scott was a speaker the last time because the Republicans were shunning Trump, forcing the nominee to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but he’s the President now. I refuse to accept that there aren’t better choices than Scott Baio available. He’s not only a washed up actor, he’s a washed up actor whom other actors never liked when he wasn’t washed up. He couldn’t even get along with Dick Van Dyke! Baio starred in one of the most degrading reality shows yet—that’s saying something—in which he visited all of his old girlfriends who he had abused when he was a star, admitted how horribly he had treated them and begged for forgiveness, resulting in about half of the women excoriating him on camera. Baio also has been accused of sexually assaulting one of the teenage girls Charles was supposed to be in charge of. Nice.

“the best people…”

1. I don’t understand this story at all, but I do know that the people who run the Susan B. Anthony museum are grandstanding jerks.  Last week President Trump pardoned suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who died in 1906, for her conviction in 1872 for voting before it was legal for women to do so. I wrote about it and rated the pardon a cynical move even for Trump, and a transparent sop for  feminists. Then, based partly on the completely unproven theory that  Anthony would not have wanted to be pardoned, and partly on the now familiar efforts of “the resistance” to deny the President the opportunity to engage in the most benign uses of his legitimate power without being attacked for it,  the leaders of the Susan B. Anthony Museum declined the pardon on her behalf, and the news media dutifully reported that the order had been declined.

The museum has no more power to decline a Presidential pardon for Anthony than I do. Continue reading

The Murder Of Mary Phagan And The Forgotten Heroism Of John M. Slaton

I  just brought The Ethics Alarms Heroes’ Hall of Honor up to date. There are 44 men and women whose inspiring stories reside there, and I know who #45 will be: John Marshall “Jack” Slaton (December 25, 1866 – January 11, 1955),the 60th Governor of Georgia.

This won’t be the official entry for John Slaton; I want to do him justice, and the story of his moment of principle and sacrifice is not only complicated, but I am having a hard time settling the facts. The short version is this:

Mary Phagan, 13, an employee at Atlanta’s National Pencil Company where Leo Frank was the manager, died of strangulation on April 26, 1913. Her body was discovered in the factory’s cellar the next morning.  Over the course of their investigation, Atlanta police arrested several men, including the night watchman Newt Lee, Frank, and Jim Conley, a janitor at the factory. Lee and Conley were black; Frank was Jewish. Though this was the height of Jim Crow in the South, prejudice against Jews was as strong in Atlanta as racism.

On May 24, 1913, Frank was indicted on a charge of murder and the case was tried at Fulton County Superior Court beginning on July 28. The prosecution’s key witness was  Conley, who described himself as an accomplice, assisting Frank in disposing the girl’s body.  Frank’s defense lawyer argued that Conley was the real killer.

The jury pronounced Leo Frank guilty verdict on August 25, 1913. Then followed a series of unsuccessful appeals, the last being before the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected it in April of 1915. Georgia Governor John M. Slaton was a popular figure about to leave office, and considered a rising political star whose ascension to the U.S. Senate was likely, if not a forgone conclusion. It was assumed that he would quickly reject Frank’s request for a pardon, given the extensive appeals and the overwhelming public outrage regarding Mary Phagan’s murder.

Those assumptions were wrong. A trial lawyer before entering politics, the Governor reviewed the evidence, acquired some evidence that had not been presented at trial , and interviewed some of the witnesses, including Conley. who had changed his story several times.  Slaton also heard arguments from both the prosecution and defense.

Although he knew, and had been warned, that taking any action favorable to Leo Frank would not only end his political career in Georgia but also place him and his wife in mortal peril, Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence from capital punishment to life imprisonment. In his official statement, he wrote,

I can endure misconstruction, abuse and condemnation, but I cannot stand the constant companionship of an accusing conscience, which would remind me in every thought that I, as a Governor of Georgia, failed to do what I thought to be right.

Continue reading

Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 6/9/18: PART II, The Bee-Free Zone…Facebook Friends Behaving Badly, Stupid Pardon Tricks, More On The Dancing Doctor, And Another “Good Illegal Immigrant”

Now that we have the unpleasantness of Samantha Bee out of the way, your gorge is safe. Well, sort of…

2. Short version: “Grow up!” If the long-time theater friend who just defriended me on Facebook is reading (yes, I know who you are), this is a message for all the people who can’t tolerate, or remain friends with, anyone who challenges their anti-Trump fanaticism by pointing out–nicely!– that they sound like lunatics. I know you assume that you are in the warm, comforting womb of a left-wing echo-chamber, but friends don’t let friends write stupid, or shouldn’t. You, let me remind you, stated in black and white that Al Franken was the best hope to defeat Trump in 2020 (See how nice I was? I didn’t even challenge that nonsense!) until Republicans secretly engineered his destruction. I wrote in response that this was tin foil hat stuff, which it is; that implicitly accusing Kristen Gillibrand of being in cahoots with the GOP  was bonkers, which is accurate, and that you should get help, which you should.

Your response was defriend me. Nice.

This has happened with about five theater friends, and in all cases over hysterical assertions that would be only acceptable from a 12-year-old. They, like you, are used to making ridiculous, hyper-partisan statements without being challenged, and regard a dissenting argument as a personal affront as well as the mark of Satan. You should not want to remain deluded, you should want to be called out when you write something idiotic, and you should not react with hostility to a friend who does so in good faith.

What I have learned about the resistance is that their logic, facts and debate skills are fatally flawed or absent. Their only defense against rebuttal is to censor it.

You really should not want to hang out with this crowd, my friend. Get well soon. I mean it.

And shame on you. I don’t deserve that.

3. Google is your friend, Mr. President. Yesterday, President Trump floated the idea of pardoning the late Muhammad Ali, who was famously convicted of draft-dodging during the Vietnam war. Ali, however, needs a pardon as much as I do. (Less, really, since he’s dead.) His conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. There is nothing to pardon him for.

This kind of thing is an unforced error that justifiably undermines trust in the President. It’s just inexcusably sloppy—typical, I concede, but sloppy. I don’t blame Trump for not knowing that Ali’s conviction had been reversed: I had forgotten that myself. Making impulsive statements based on flawed information and snap decisions, however, suggests that the President might take impulsive actions based on misunderstandings as well.

Well, he does that, too.

More on pardons: I have seen several news sources, including the New York Times, contrast President Trump’s political “celebrity” pardons with President Obama’s pardons of less high profile Americans. Fake news. At this point in his administration, how many pardons do you think Obama had issued?

None. Zero. Zilch. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, “June Had Better Be Better Than May” Edition: Wait, CNN Is Condemning Double Standards? [UPDATED]

Good morning…

1. How low can the New York Times go?  Even lower than I thought...In today editorial, the Times editorial board complains about President Trump’s pardon of conservative writer  Dinesh D’Souza, whom it describes as a “right-wing troll.” Okay…and by that kind of measure, the entire Times editorial staff is a collective left-wing troll. The Times notes that D’Souza is “known for, among other things, posting racist tweets about President Barack Obama [ The Times identified a single “racist tweet,” but in any event, such tweets are not illegal]  spreading the lie that George Soros was a Nazi collaborator [ Not a lie, just an unfair characterization that D’Souza may genuinely believe. Lying is also not illegal, and the Times should be grateful for this given its own proclivities] and writing that “the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well” [ An opinion, if an obnoxious one, and also not illegal.] So what? None of that justifies D’Souza’s prosecution on a technical election law violation that many found to be politically motivated and pushed by those who took offense at, well, exactly what the Times cited about him. Bill Clinton, during the 2016 primaries, openly violated the law by politicking for Hillary at a polling place in Massachusetts without any consequences. That was selective non-prosecution if the offense was usually enforced, and would have been selective, suspicious prosecution if he had been charged when most violators are not. There are good reasons, in other words, to believe that an anti-Obama, anti-Democrat gadfly was targeted vindictively by the Obama administration to chill his political speech. Trump’s pardon is defensible, if provocative. Then the Times writes,

“The tendency of presidents of both parties to reward cronies with clemency — from Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton’s of the financier Marc Rich — is one Washington tradition that we’d welcome Mr. Trump smashing.”

You read that correctly. The New York Times just sunk to a new low, which is quite an achievement, comparing Gerald Ford’s brave, wise, and politically ruinous pardon of Richard Nixon for the good of the nation (and it was good for the nation, while a protracted political show trial of a disgraced President would not have been) to Bill Clinton’s probably criminal pardon of fugitive Marc Rich, whose ex-wife coincidentally followed up Clinton’s  defiantly perverse  act with a huge financial gift to Clinton’s Presidential library.

2. How to invalidate an apology in one, stupid step. Yesterday “Cunt”-Hurler Samantha Bee apologized “sincerely” for her scurrilous attack on Ivanka Trump after it began to appear that her incivility might lose her show some sponsors. Then she almost immediately showed how sincerely ( as in “not one bit”) at last night’s award ceremony, as the Television Academy  honored Bee’s  “Full Frontal”  for “advancing social change” (as in ‘pushing partisan anger and hate to the point where a civil war is no longer unthinkable.’ Yay Samantha!). Her award should have been cancelled, of course, and by awarding it to Bee anyway, the Academy tacitly endorsed the position that Ivanka Trump is a “feckless cunt.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2018: What Do Kellyann’s Husband And The NFL Kneelers Have In Common? [Updated]

Morning in my home town, Arlington Massachusetts (where they seem to have found another body in Spy Pond….)

Good Morning!

1. George Conway is unethical. It’s really as simple as that. Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, a lawyer, has decided to take advantage of his wife’s notoriety to grab unearned influence and fame for himself. He has become a regular twitter critic of the President, routinely blasting the Administration through mostly re-tweeted commentary from other sources. This, of course, makes the Trumpophobes ecstatic, embarrasses his wife, and gives George 15 hitch-hiked minutes of fame.

Let me count the ways this is wrong:

  • He’s not contributing anything valuable to the public debate, just bolstering his wife’s enemies.  Social media-users who can’t muster their own arguments and who only appeal to authority should not be taken seriously, and if George wasn’t undermining his wife, he wouldn’t be.
  • Who he is married to is the only reason anyone pays any attention to his tweeting. Surely he knows this. Surely he knows that the result is his wife’s embarrassment, and that he he is actively working against her. This is not a James Carville-Mary Matalin act, where both spouses are independently regarded as powerful political consultants. This is spousal sabotage.
  • He’s risking his wife’s career for his own aggrandizement. I’ll say this for Trump: he’s more forgiving than I would be. I would give Kellyanne an ultimatum: get your husband to stop undermining us, dump him, or quit. This is analogous to the crazy estranged husband who keeps coming to his wife’s place of business to harass her. The employer’s completely justified message: “We can’t have this. It’s your problem; fix it, or we will.”

2.  ‘We don’t care: he’s a racist whatever he does.’ President Trump announced his long-rumored pardon of black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson yesterday. (The Times has an interesting feature about Johnson’s travails here.) Praising the President for this long over-due exoneration, an NAACP spokesman said…nah, I’m kidding, the civil rights organization didn’t say anything. However, the Congressional Black Caucus, which had urged President Obama to finally right this decades-long wrong, said…no, they had nothing to say either.  [ Correction: Originally I wrote here that John McCain, who sponsored a resolution asking for Obama to pardon Johnson,, did not signal praise for the pardon. He did, and I apologize to the Senator for the error. Thanks to Dan Abrams for the information.]

There is no reasonable argument against pardoning Johnson, and there never has been. Apparently Obama was hesitant–but then he was always hesitant—this time because Johnson had a reputation for domestic abuse. Thus I presume that the female contingent in the White House pulling Barack’s strings—Valerie and Michelle—along with the all-important advocates for the Democratic Party’s feminist base wouldn’t let him do it. Obama, a lawyer, or so I hear, must have realized that Johnson’s racist persecution by the government for being a  famous and defiant black man who openly had white female companionship had absolutely nothing to do with domestic abuse, and that misconduct a controversial figure may or may not have engaged in unrelated to an unjust criminal conviction shouldn’t play any part in a pardon assessment.

That Barack. So principled. So courageous…

3. I like David French, but...his recent op-ed for the Times attacking the NFL’s ruling on National Anthem protests going forward—if a player won’t stand respectfully, the he must stay off the field, in the locker room—is ethically obtuse. French’s point is that conservatives should champion free speech at a time when the Left is trying to suppress it. That’s a good point, and I agree wholeheartedly, but it has nothing to do with the NFL’s kneelers. I suspect that French wanted to make this argument, and negligently grabbed at the NFL policy as his chance to make it.

He writes in part, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/28/17

Good Morning!

Ready for an ethical week?

1. In a comment thread about Joe Arpaio’s pardon, the absurd assertion was made that Chelsea Manning was “tortured” at Leavenworth. In knocking down this anti-U.S. propaganda, courtesy of the U.N. and others, I noted that even the U.N. accuser based that assessment on the weird conclusion that Manning was “never convicted of a crime.”

Translation: military courts martial don’t count. Thanks for that opinion, U.N. guy! Why don’t you start your own country?

The other part of the phony torture accusation is the assertion that being held in solitary confinement is torture. Under international law, it is considered “cruel and unusual punishment,” not torture, but… surprise! The U.S. is not governed by international law, much as the globalists wish it were!

Solitary confinement has (rarely) been found by U.S. courts to violate the 8th Amendment when it is of indeterminate duration and without good cause, but that has nothing to do with Manning, who was considered in danger as a traitor in a military prison, and was in solitary for her own protection. The Supreme Court determines what is cruel and unusual punishment in this country, not the U.N., and not international law.

2. I also (I admit it: I knew I would) triggered a freak-out here, and some unfair insults that I will gracefully ignore, by stating that I would have supported execution for Manning, who was and is a traitor. (President Obama commuted her sentence, making the anti-war Left happy but oddly triggering a fraction of the condemnation in the news media that has followed President Trump’s pardoning an 85-year old man facing a minimal jail term. ) The U.S. has been historically reluctant to execute traitors, and in the era where a cyber-leaks can give more aid and comfort to the enemy than Julius and Ethel Rosenberg could have managed in a hundred years, a re-evaluation of that kind, merciful but dangerous policy is over-due for reconsideration. Manning avoided conviction on the worst of the charges against her (then, him) because prosecutors didn’t prove intent sufficiently. Manning claimed that she was just trying to start a “conversation’ about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and was willing to put classified information into the hands of terrorists in order to do it. If she knew she would be facing the death penalty with some certainty, it is likely that Manning would have thought twice, at least. It’s called deterrence, and in an age where self-righteous low-level types like Manning and Edward Snowden can get U.S. intelligence personnel exposed and killed with a few keystrokes, serious deterrence is called for.

3. Remember when I asked readers to alert Ethics Alarms when the first talking head suggested that out first major hurricane in 12 years was the result of climate change? It took longer than I expected, but the first reported fool was CNN anchor John Berman. He  was interviewing  Bill Read, the former director of the National Hurricane Center, and asked,

“Is there a why to this? Why there is so much water associated with this storm? One thing we heard from scientists over the last 10 years is that climate change does impact the intensity of many of the storms that we see.”

To his credit, Read assured Berman that the heavy rains had nothing to do with climate change, and everything to do with the typical behavior of this kind of storm. The episode shows 1) how little many journalists (I won’t say all, but it is very close to all) understand the science of climate change, but promote it anyway because it aligns with their partisan politics, and 2) how they will try to generate fake news, which is what “Hurricane Harvey Deadly Rainfall Possibly Caused By Climate Change, Expert Tells CNN” would have been. If Berman was interested in promoting public understanding of the climate change controversy, he would have asked, “Climate change models and Al Gore’s documentaries predicted more and more violent storms as a result of global warming, yet this is the first major hurricane we have seen in more than a decade. How do you account for this?”

4. In the teeth of this renewed attack on U.S. history and culture during the Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, I asked how long it would be before “Gone With The Wind” was banished from the airwaves. The Orpheum Theatre Group in Memphis, Tennessee just withdrew its annual screening of the classic 1939 film  out of concern that some may find it ‘offensive’.

If no one has the courage to stand up for art, expression and history as “the offended” try to strangle cultural diversity out of existence, then Orwellian thought control will be the inevitable result. I don’t blame the “offended” for trying to suppress speech, thought and history as much as I blame the cowards who capitulate to it. Next in the line to oblivion: war movies, movies with guns, “Gettysburg” and John Wayne. Continue reading

A Lawyer Ponders: “Will Obama Pardon Clinton? And If He Does, Will She Accept?” An Ethicist Answers…

get-out-of-jail2

Over at The Hill, lawyer David Weisberg examines the questions in the title above. Frankly, I assumed that Hillary needing a pardon from Obama was a dead issue, but Weisberg persuades me that it might not be.

Let’s begin by pointing out that it would be gallactically stupid for the Trump Justice Department to prosecute Clinton. Doing so would be a guaranteed circus; it would inflame Democrats who are already resembling The Human Torch, and it would appear to be a political prosecution. A winning President tries to put his losing opponent in jail would reek of banana republic vengeance, and that’s one reason why no American President has ever done it.

This is Donald Trump we are talking about, however, so who knows? Certainly many of his more angry and less grey matter-blessed supporters would love to see Hillary in the slammer. I am hoping and praying that Trump either is smarter than this or has advisors who can talk him out of his worst ideas, but I am not as confident as I should be. Weisberg makes the reasonable point that Hillary may not be confident either:

“Since being elected, Trump has been remarkably warm towards the person he used to call “Crooked Hillary.” But how confident could Clinton be that the Justice Department, under a Trump administration, would not prosecute? Prosecutorial decisions are supposed to be independent of political considerations, so Trump’s recent friendliness should not be controlling once the new attorney general is in office.”

That last sentence is both true, and following the wretched partisanship of the Obama Justice Department, very much in the category of  legal fiction. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: President Barack Obama

President Obama granted clemency to 231 deserving individuals, yesterday, the most individual acts of clemency granted in a single day by any President inU.S. history. He also issued 153 commutations, and has now commuted the sentences of 1,176 individuals, including 395 life sentences. The President also granted pardons to 78 individuals, bringing his total number of pardons to 148.

Good.

The pardon and clemency powers of the President are underused, and until the last two years, Obama underused them more than any modern President. Now, presumably in a last minute flurry to enhance his legacy, Obama has embraced these acts of mercy as one thing he can do that Donald Trump will not be able to reverse. Obama’s motives are irrelevant, however. The “quality of mercy is not strain’d…” and it also shouldn’t be criticized. We must assume that the beneficiaries of Obama’s mercy are deserving, and that there aren’t any Marc Rich-types in the group.

There is so much that is right with Obama’s commutations and pardons. They match the spirit and ideals of the season; they provide second chances to Americans who need them; it returns citizens to their families. Let’s hope that he has begun a permanent competition, and that every President will now strive to exceed the number of official acts of mercy of his or her immediate predecessor.

Thank-you, Mister President.

You just made the United States  a little more ethical.

A lot, in fact.

Comment of the Day: “Jonathan Montgomery: Victimized By An Unethical Tag Team Of A Vicious Teenager And An Officious Attorney General”

catch-22Reader John Robins provides additional, and depressing, perspective on the Montgomery case, discussed in today’s post, Jonathan Montgomery: Victimized By An Unethical Tag Team Of A Vicious Teenager And An Officious Attorney General. Here is his Comment of the Day:

“It gets worse than this, actually. Although everybody acknowledges that Montgomery is innocent, he must still report to a probation officer and must register as a sex offender until the Virginia Court of Appeals grinds its way through the Petition for Writ of Actual Innocence, which may take several months, and is being handled by the Innocence Project out of D.C. I know what went on in this case and what happened because my office was involved in the defense. Continue reading

Jonathan Montgomery: Victimized By An Unethical Tag Team Of A Vicious Teenager And An Officious Attorney General

What now qualifies as a rising star in the Virginia GOP.

Atty. Gen. Cuccinelli: What now qualifies as a rising star in the Virginia GOP.

Jonathan Montgomery was recently pardoned by Virginia Governor Bob McDonald for a rape he never committed. This inherent contradiction—“We know you’re innocent, and we forgive you” —was made necessary by a sequence of events that could have been devised by Kafka, Stephen King or Mel Brooks, but unfortunately really happened. They happened because of two individuals who were absent the day basic ethics were handed out.

First and foremost in this wing of the Hall of Ethics Shame was Elizabeth Paige Coast, from the Tawana Brawley school of sociopathy.  When she was a teenager in 2007, her parents caught her surfing internet porn. To deflect their anger and avoid punishment, she concocted a story about how her sex drive had been addled as a result of being sexually molested when she was ten by a neighbor hood 14-year-old, Montgomery. She thought, since his family had moved away, that nothing would happen to him. Wrong. He was arrested and she testified against him to avoid telling the truth to her parents, putting him in jail for four years before she finally decided to recant her accusation. We are told that she has been charged with one count of perjury, and was fired from her job with the police department. Not enough, not by a long shot.

Then Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli decided to pick up where Coast left off. Continue reading