Tag Archives: sexual predators

Rewarding Violence And Vigilante Justice: The Unethical Glorification of Randall Margraves

That’s Margraves on the left, with Nassar, his target, cowering in red…

During the sentencing hearing for sexual predator Larry Nasser in an Eaton County, Michigan courtroom, Randall Margraves, the father of three daughters who were all molested by the former USA Women’s Gymnastics doctor, shouted “You son of a bitch!” and rushed Nassar.  He was tackled and placed in handcuffs. Before the attack, Margraves asked Judge Janice Cunningham to grant him “five minutes in a locked room with this demon. Yes or no.”  Perhaps he thought she was Ingham County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who might have granted his request based on her words at his previous sentencing hearing. Cunningham, however, refused the request.

After the father’s attempt to take the law into his own hands, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis told the stunned courtroom, “We cannot behave like this. This is letting him have his power over us….You cannot do this. I understand Mr. Margraves’ frustration, but you cannot do this. Use your words, use your experiences. Do not use physical violence.” Judge Cunningham added,

“We cannot react by using physical violence and assault against someone who has performed criminal acts. What Mr. Nassar did is horrible. It’s unthinkable, but please let the criminal justice system do what it is supposed to do and issue the punishment he should get.”

Nonetheless, no charges were filed against Margraves. Wrong.  This is irresponsible and hypocritical, as well as cowardly. (We know any punishment will be unpopular with the “Think of the children!” and the “What if it was your daughters?” crowds as well as the “Punch Nazis in the face”  constituency) If the message really is that a society can’t give in to vigilante justice and let citizens employ physical violence as extra-legal means to exact vengeance against criminals, then those who behave this way must be punished.  If they are not, then the opposite message is sent: “Well, when someone is really bad, and hurts someone you really care about, we sympathize. We understand how you feel.” What if Margraves had reached Nassar and delivered a punch to his face, fracturing his jaw? Or ripped his lips off? That he didn’t was just moral luck. Would the father have been charged then, as millions around the nation shut down their ethics alarms and cheered?

For the justice system to remains coherent and maintain integrity, the father had to be charged. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/27/2018: “If You Want It, Here’s How To Get It” Edition

Good Morning (and I hope you all feel better than I do).

1 Tide Pod Update: If you want more libertarians, here’s how to get them.  At the Fortune site, Harold I. Ziegler writes,

Recently, videos have circulated on social media showing teens deliberately eating Tide Pods laundry detergent packs. All of this is part of what some call the “Tide Pod Challenge.” These pods contain highly concentrated laundry detergent under pressure and explode when bitten into, releasing their toxic contents and causing rapid ingestion and inhalation of dangerous chemicals. In my capacity as a toxic chemical researcher and consultant, I have investigated and seen several instances of the horrendous consequences that result from laundry pack ingestion: permanent burning of the mouth, throat, digestive tract, and lung tissue, and in some cases even death.Procter & Gamble (P&G), the manufacturer of Tide Pods, as well as other companies selling laundry detergent packs, have acted in the past to stem the misuse of their products. But these safety measures have failed.

It’s clear that laundry pods as they currently exist are too dangerous to be sold to the public. If P&G and other manufacturers can’t figure out a way to reduce the more than 10,000 injuries they cause each year, laundry packs need to be taken off the market.

If there is a better example of the thought processes that create nanny states and push society to eliminate personal responsibility, accountability and autonomy from its values, I can’t think of it. If people persist in the “Hit Yourself In The Head With a Hammer Challenge,” ban hammers.  How do intelligent, educated people end up thinking like this? More amazing still is that a consultant can put out an addled argument like this one for public consumption—Wait! Harold’s opinions make people stupid, and we can’t seem to stop people from reading them! Using Harold’s logic, we better ban freedom of expression! Or Harold!—and still be able to persuade clients to pay for his advice.

2. But if it’s more white nationalism you want, here’s how you get THAT…San Francisco Acting Mayor London Breed, an African-American, was voted out at by her colleagues Board of Supervisors in favor of Mark Farrell, who is white. The Horror.  will replace her as interim mayor until voters select a new mayor in June. As soon as it became apparent that the first African-American woman to lead San Francisco, albeit only because the elected mayor died suddenly, was being replaced by a white male, black citizens in the room erupted with rage, with many leaving in protest, and others shouting, “Shame, shame, shame.” “This is war!” some shouted as the meeting ended.

Nice.

In related news, the Congressional Black Caucus announced that it will boycott the State of the Union speech. Continue reading

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The Unethical Sentencing Of Dr. Lawrence Nassar

Non-lawyers and journalists mostly cheered Ingham County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s grandstanding, self-indulgent, unprofessional and unethical handling of Dr. Larry Nassars’s sentencing yesterday. Nobody bothered to seek the opinion of criminal lawyers and judges, much less ethicists. If they had, they would have heard a loud, collective, “Ugh.”

It was a disgrace. I object to victim impact statements in sentencing, a terrible idea pushed by victim’s rights advocates, because it misrepresents the purpose of the justice system. The objective is to punish citizens for violating laws, not to get revenge for victims or their families, not to get “closure,” and not to satisfy emotional needs. The process isn’t personal, or shouldn’t be. If it is personal, then it isn’t objective. Judge Aquila threw all of that out the window as she played to the cameras and the mob.

Criminal defense lawyer and blogger Scott Greenfield aptly explained what was unethical about the parade of victims:

Nassar’s sentencing hearing is a clear example of a judge straying from promoting the public’s trust in a fair and impartial judiciary. Let’s begin with Judge Aquilina’s decision allowing over one hundred and sixty victim impact statements across seven days. 

Victim impact statements are theoretically allowed as a means of giving a crime victim the chance to describe their experience to the court. Defense lawyers aren’t typically fans of them, and too many can arguably have a prejudicial effect against a defendant.

Contrast Nasssar’s hearing with that of Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter responsible for the deaths of nine churchgoers. Judge Richard Gergel admonished the State’s list of thirty-eight statements, cautioning against a “spectacle”. David Bruck, the attorney assigned to advise Roof, claimed the proceeding violated “every principle restraining victim impact statements under the 8th Amendment.”

Strangely, no advocate stood to question admitting impact statements from over 160 victims, including gold medal Olympians, might prejudice a jurist’s decision. It’s hard to imagine Judge Aquilina even entertaining such an argument.

It is also hard to imagine Nassar’s sleepwalking defense attorney making such an objection. She was praised by the judge for taking on an unpopular client, but taking him on isn’t enough. She was supposed to protect his rights.

Then the judge delivered her sentence, turning her moment in the national spotlight into a self-aggrandizing, virtue-signalling, vainglorious soliloquy to the gallery. This was one more example of why televised court proceedings are a bad idea.

I’m going to give you the whole transcript of her remarks, bolding the sections before my comments. Cut to the bolded sections if you don’t care to experience the full measure of Judge Aquilina’s narcissism. One section,, however, was left out of all the published versions that I could find:

“Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment. If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls—these young women in their childhood—I would allow someone or many people to do to him what he did to others.”

The judge apparently had this excised from the official transcript. No wonder. She is advocating prison rape and by doing so, endorsing it. Michigan’s judicial ethics standards require in part,

“A judge should respect and observe the law. At all times, the conduct and manner of a judge should promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Without regard to a person’s race, gender, or other protected personal characteristic, a judge should treat every person fairly, with courtesy and respect.”

Needless to say—I hope—‘I wish I could have you gang raped’ does not meet this standard. It is also troubling that a judge would distort the record. She said what she said, and the public should know she is the kind of jurist would say something like that—an unethical one. The state’s judicial panel should also know.

Here is the rest: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/2018: Special “Was That Wrong? Should I Have Not Done That? I Gotta Plead Ignorance On This Thing Because If Anyone Had Said Anything To Me At All When I First Started Here That That Sort Of Thing Was Frowned Upon…” Edition*

Good morning, all.

Let’s get warmed up…

1  Social media censorship. Tom Champlin, who owns the libertarian news aggregator The Liberty Review and runs its associated Facebook page was banned from Facebook for 30 days under its “community standards” for posting this:

Facebook prohibits posts that promote harmful conduct, eating disorders and suicide, but no one but an idiot–is the Facebook community made up of idiots?—would misinterpret the meaning of that meme. It’s a political statement, and if it really violates Facebook’s “community standards,” then Facebook is demanding ideological conformity in its already largely mindless left-wing echo chamber. Either enough Facebook users who believe in free speech make a stink over this kind of attempted regulation of public opinion to force Facebook (and Twitter, and Google) to cut it out, or the open expression of ideas in social media will be doomed.

I suggest every Facebook user post this meme, not to chide Obamacare, but to show support for freedom of expression, and contempt for Facebook’s attempt to strangle it. Of course Facebook, as a private business, can ban what it wants. That doesn’t mean abusing its power and influence is any less dangerous or despicable.

I just posted this item, with the meme, to my Facebook page. I’ll be interest to see a) if I get banned, even with the above preface, and 2) how many of my knee-jerk progressive friends have the integrity to post the meme themselves.

2.  Predators who don’t get it, Part 1. Like many others, I wondered if the NPR banishment of Garrison Keillor and the deposit of his iconic “Prairie Home Companion” radio show  in the Void of Shame was just witch hunt mania. Keillor dismissed it as the result of a single ex-employee making a late fuss over an accidental laying on of hands. Finally, after being attacked by Keillor fans for Frankening him unjustly, Minnesota Public Television, which was the NPR station that investigated the plummy humorist, decided that it had to go public with the real story. Yesterday it posted a statement that said in part…

When Minnesota Public Radio abruptly severed ties with Garrison Keillor in November, the sole explanation offered by the company was “inappropriate behavior” with a female colleague.

For his part, the creator and longtime host of A Prairie Home Companion described his offense as nothing more than having placed his hand on a woman’s back to console her. An investigation by MPR News, however, has learned of a years-long pattern of behavior that left several women who worked for Keillor feeling mistreated, sexualized or belittled. None of those incidents figure in the “inappropriate behavior” cited by MPR when it severed business ties. Nor do they have anything to do with Keillor’s story about putting a hand on a woman’s back:

  • In 2009, a subordinate who was romantically involved with Keillor received a check for $16,000 from his production company and was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement which, among other things, barred her from ever divulging personal or confidential details about him or his companies. She declined to sign the agreement, and never cashed the check.

• In 2012, Keillor wrote and publicly posted in his bookstore an off-color limerick about a young woman who worked there and the effect she had on his state of arousal.

• A producer fired from The Writer’s Almanac in 1998 sued MPR, alleging age and sex discrimination, saying Keillor habitually bullied and humiliated her and ultimately replaced her with a younger woman.

• A 21-year-old college student received an email in 2001 in which Keillor, then her writing instructor at the University of Minnesota, revealed his “intense attraction” to her.

MPR News has interviewed more than 60 people who worked with or crossed professional paths with Keillor. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they still work in the industry or feared repercussions from Keillor or his attorneys…

Is it possible that Keillor really believes that he never did anything wrong? Yes, it’s very possible, and this Ethics Alarms post from yesterday in all likelihood applies to Keillor, another weird, homely guy that learned early in life that show business was a great way to attract women. Continue reading

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Here’s Something The News Media Hasn’t Explained Regarding The Weinstein Scandal: Those Victim Confidentiality Agreements Are Unethical, And Maybe Illegal

Rose McGowan, the new Sexual Harassment Fury on social media, says she was raped by Weinstein and had to accept a $100,000 settlement with a confidentiality agreement as a condition of the deal. That means that if she subsequently told her story and accused Weinstein, she would be liable for damages, and would have to return the money. Right?

Not exactly. Most of the accounts in this sordid series of events make it seem like confidentiality agreements are iron clad and enforceable. Often they are neither. McGowan’s almost certainly wasn’t.

Debra Katz, an attorney specializing in sexual harassment law suits, recently explained that if employees or former employees came forward with information about Weinstein participating in criminal misconduct, their non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality agreements would probably be unenforceable, saying,

“These kind of very broad NDAs or confidentiality agreements typically violate public policy. Employees have to have the legal ability to discuss any concerns about unlawful behavior in the workplace … These broad provisions that would effectively silo people, make them feel like they can’t speak about this, are simply an instrument to put fear in people.”

My position has always been that lawyers who construct such agreements, knowing that they are unenforceable, are committing sanctionable ethical misconduct. The lawyer for the employee being silenced, moreover, has an obligation to let the client know that the requirement is unconscionable. Of course, it’s the client’s decision whether she wants to take the money.  It is also unethical to make an agreement you have no intention of honoring. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/13/17: All Aboard The Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!

Good Morning, Hollywood!

I’m sorry to bombard you with this ugly topic again first thing, but I’d like to stop having to think about it as soon as possible.

1 My sister, a committed Democrat who naturally prefers that damning stories about her favorite politicians go down the memory hole as soon as possible, complained yesterday that she didn’t understand why Harvey’s demise was such a long-running story. He’s a pig, we’ve seen it before, he’s fired, big deal, she protested. There are more important things going on.

There are undoubtedly more important things going on, but from an ethics perspective, the importance of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck and who boards it (and who has been riding it for decades) is as significant and chock full of lessons as a story can get. The Penn State-Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno scandal was important for some of the same reasons. It exposed the tendency of organizations to become corrupted when non-ethical considerations, usually money, freeze the clappers on multiple ethics alarms. It showed how “virtuous” people with power and influence can betray their values, admirers and supporters in the pursuit of personal or organizational goals. It showed how even usually complacent and biased journalists will suddenly become responsible when the details are juicy enough…and how some won’t. The Sandusky saga also was one more clue to how inherently warped an entire industry’s culture—in that case, big time college football—was (and is).

The Weinstein Train Wreck is worse, however, and also more significant. Weinstein is typical—extreme, perhaps, but typical—of  a popular and glamorous industry that has abused power to debase and exploit women for a century. The trade-offs and incentives turned many of the abused women into accessories of future crimes against other women, while some women, too powerful to have to fear the consequences of doing the obviously right thing, chose to protect the community and the industry rather than human beings. That they, and complicit men in the industry as well, did this while spending the past six years making angry public speeches about the sexist and misogynist attitude of Republicans flagged the kind of hypocrisy that demands substantive consequences.

It also demands reform. Anyone who  thinks Hollywood is going to retire the casting couch because of one especially disgusting and prolific predator is kidding themselves. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination is rampant at every level of the performing arts, from high school theater up through Broadway, and on to Hollywood. I question whether that culture will ever change significantly. At least this episode might educate the public that if they take moral grandstanding from the likes of John Legend, Meryl Streep and Jimmy Kimmel seriously, they are asking to be betrayed and disillusioned.

And that doesn’t even reach the political hypocrisy exhibited by the Democratic Party and progressives, which embraced and celebrated a sexual predator from Hollywood because he gave them money, just as they have been giving a sexual predator from Arkansas the King’s Pass on similar conduct because he gave them power. As long as the only voices calling attention to this are from the Right,  count on progressives to ignore or minimize the issue. After all, conservatives and Republicans accepted the devil’s bargain in allying themselves with Roger Ailes. Still, the criticism of the party and predator enablers like Hillary Clinton needs to come from the Left to do any lasting good. So far there has been some criticism from that direction, but not nearly enough.

2. Weinstein’s contract with The Weinstein Company  included a clause that allowed  his sexual harassment as long as he paid the costs of settlements out of his own pocket, TMZ reported yesterday. So much for the sham posture that the company was shocked and disgusted at his conduct. Poor Donna Brazile, desperately trying to join the futile virtue signalling by hypocrites who have been cheering on Hillary and her husband for decades, tweeted her admiration for the TWC board thusly

…only to have to delete the tweet later. Did Donna really believe that the TWC board, including Harvey’s brother, didn’t know what Weinstein was doing? Is she that stupid?

3. A lot of contentious debate on this topic at Ethics Alarms has arisen regarding the complicity and obligations of various Hollywood actresses. There are different categories, and conflating them only leads to confusion. Here are the categories and subcategories:

A. The powerless victims of harassment These are the young, aspiring actresses who were propositioned or assaulted by Weinstein, and convinced, rightly or not, that they would never have a chance if they complained

These are the equivalents of Bill Cosby’s victims, who only came forward after their abuser was wounded and vulnerable.

A 1. Powerless victims who accepted cash settlements. This means that since other remedies were unavailable to them, they at least triggered some kind of punishment and compensation. This required, however, allowing future victims to go unwarned, since the pay-offs were accompanied by confidentiality agreements.

B. Victims who were not powerless, due to connections in the industry. I place actresses like Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow in this category.

C. Victims who, over time, became powerful, wealthy, popular and influential enough that they could have exposed Weinstein, if they chose, but didn’t.

C 1 Victims who received cash settlements when powerless but whose careers  progressed to the point that they could forfeit the cash and accept any legal consequences of breaking the contractual agreements.

D. Rape victims. Sexual harassment is a civil offense; rape is a crime. Many rapes can be substantiated by medical examinations, and rapists are dangerous. Accepting a cash settlement for not reporting one’s rape when the rape could have been substantiated—this is what Rose McGowan did—is a breach of multiple civic duties.

E. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct and did nothing about it.

F. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct,  did nothing about it, and continued to praise him in public.

G. Actresses who accepted Weinstein’s proffered bargain, and exchanged sexual favors for roles and contracts, turning what is laughably regarded a a meritocracy into sexual commerce. We don’t know who these women are, but it strains credulity to think there were none.

Of course, many male Hollywood figures also fall into categories E and F.

Categories C, EF and G are the most unethical categories. D is problematic as well.

4. Jane Fonda revealed to Christiane Amanpour that she is in category E. She “found out about Harvey about a year ago,” said the certified Hollywood royalty, outspoken feminist and progressive champion.  “I’m ashamed that I didn’t say anything right then,” Fonda said. 

Well, that’s nice. As long as she is ashamed.

We can proclaim our principles and values all our lives, but if we don’t act according to them when the lives of others are at stake, all of what went before is meaningless. How many women suffered at Weinstein’s hands after Jane knew? Continue reading

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Lessons And Notes From The Harvey Weinstein Fiasco

The latest development in the rapid fall of Hollywood independent film mogul and lionized Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein: The board of his own company, The Weinstein Company, just fired him.

You should read the New York Times’ damning story, following an investigation, about the extent of Weinstein’s long reign of misogynist terror in Hollywood. I don’t care to re-hash it. Note, as you read, that as disgusting as it is, more disgusting stories have come out since it was published. For example, a TV journalist now says that Weinstein once trapped her in the hallway of a restaurant that was closed to the public and masturbated in front of her until he ejaculated.  She says she told friends about the episode, but remained quiet because “she was in a long-term relationship” and was “fearful of the power that Weinstein wielded in the media.”

  • WHAT? She withheld this story for a decade because she was fearful, thus allowing Weinstein to abuse how many other women? Hundreds? I’d love to ask her if a powerful individual, in her opinion, could have done anything that would have caused her to make the effort to overcome her fear and self-interest. Someone who would act as she describes is pathological. What she endured was a criminal act. This is signature significance, is it not? Does a civilized, trustworthy, non-sociopath sicko ever do such a thing even once, on the worst day of his life? “I’m sorry I trapped you and masturbated in front of you; it wasn’t the best choice, and anyone can make a mistake.”

The man is and was dangerous. The woman had a citizen’s duty to report this to the police; I don’t care how powerful he was.

  • And, apparently, dozens of actresses had experiences, if not quite that horrifying, horrifying enough. In the Times report, we learn that Weinstein invited Angry Progressive Feminist Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel 20 years ago for what she thought would be a breakfast meeting about her career. Weinstein had her sent to his hotel suite, where he greeted the actress in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage. She told The Times that he then proposed that she watch him shower. Now she tells us this? Now, after she excoriated the President on the Mall, using obscene terms to cheer on  “resistance” “pussy- hat marchers  in January and speculate about the President’s Trump’s wet dreams about his own daughter?  Judd  said she kept quiet to avoid alienating Harvey Weinstein because she was just at the beginning of her career—you know, like all of those Cosby victims. What’s her excuse for the rest of the 20 years, allowing more young actresses to be extorted into sexual submission? Larry O’Connor has the (revolting) answer, I think. In a piece for Mediaite, he writes of Judd,

Has she channeled that anger and humiliation and fear at the industry that allowed it? Or at the man and his multi-million dollar corporation that enabled it? No. Her real enemies are Republicans. Don’t you get it?

So the not-so-hidden message in Weinstein’s non-apology statement was “Hey, remember, I supported Hillary and Obama and I raise millions for Democrats and I’ll help destroy the NRA and Trump. I may treat you like shit, but my heart is in the right place. Now get your knee pads on.”

In Hollywood, being liberal means never having to say you’re sorry.

Judd has been praised for having the courage to tell her story now…when Weinstein is elderly and his power is waning, knowing the he was about to be exposed. No, this is an example of Rationalization #22, “It’s not the worst thing.” Yes, Judd is not as bad as the many, many actresses who kept quiet about this sexual predator, endangering others, who still are mum. Whoopie! Continue reading

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