Here Is How Free Expression Is Valued In Those Wonderful English-Speaking Countries The US Should Be More Like…

In Australia

Australian Cardinal George Pell was convicted in Melbourne this week on five counts of child sexual abuse. This made him  the most senior official ever found guilty in the Catholic Church’s apparently endless child sexual-abuse scandals. The judge in the case, Peter Kidd, immediately subjected news of Pell’s conviction to a suppression order, the Australian equivalent of a gag order, on press coverage. Australian courts impose such orders to shield defendants from negative publicity that could prejudice future jurors in upcoming trials, and  Pell faces another trial next year on a separate set of abuse charges dating to the 1970s. Of course, the more the public knows about how many predator priests the Catholic Church has facilitated, covered up for, and allowed to prey on children, the safer it is. I am not convinced that this suppression of news isn’t a sop to the Church. Judge Kidd told defense and prosecution attorneys that some members of the news media are facing “the prospect of imprisonment and indeed substantial imprisonment” if found guilty of breaching his gag order

Never mind:  the web, social media and the Streisand Effect foiled the judge. Pell and the charges against him were quickly the subject of thousands of tweets and shared posts on Facebook. The posts included links to websites and blogs where the news was available, including NPR, the Daily Beast and the National Catholic Reporter.

The Washington Post reported the conviction, but the New York Times did not. The Times’ deputy general counsel, David McCraw, gave the excuse that the newspaper is abiding by the court’s order in Australia “because of the presence of our bureau there. It is deeply disappointing that we are unable to present this important story to our readers in Australia and elsewhere. . . . Press coverage of judicial proceedings is a fundamental safeguard of justice and fairness. A free society is never well served by a silenced press.”

So don’t be silent then.

The Associated Press and Reuters news services also did not report Pell’s conviction.  Both services have bureaus in Australia that could face potential liability. Tell me again about how courageous news organizations are.

In Canada…

Continue reading

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 1)

Cosby3

2014 was the year of the Ethics Train Wreck. They were coming so fast that they were getting tangled up with each other, and old wrecks from past years started rolling again, or the damage that was triggered a year ago or more started kicking in. I don’t know if every year really is more ethics free than the year before, or that it just feels that way because I’m getting better at sniffing it out. By any standards, it was a wretched year, with epic ethical misconduct across the culture. But I can’t stall any more: let’s wade into it. There will be more installments this year, so the misery is coming in smaller bites. You’re welcome.

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

trainwreck

It’s a tie!

The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck and The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck

The obvious winner is the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, which has managed to hook up with the 2012 winner, The Trayvon Martin- George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, as well as a the sub-EthicsTrain Wreck attached to the death of Eric Garner, to further degrade U.S. race relations, undermine the stability of numerous cities, get several people, including the recently assassinated NYC police officers killed, revive race riots, give vile demagogue Al Sharpton unprecedented power and influence, and pick up such distinguished riders as President Obama,  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, New York Mayor de Blasio. It is also still barreling along at top speed after many months, and is a good bet to continue its carnage well into 2015. 

Yet, it became clear to me this summer with this post that the entire Obama Administration has become an Ethics Train Wreck, and one that is neck-and-neck with the one spawned in Ferguson in threatening short and long-term damage. Incompetence, dishonestly, lack of transparency and arrogance have hardened cynicism in the public, corrupted the ethical values of defenders, let journalists to disgrace themselves, and fertilized festering potential disasters internationally and domestically. This is also, I now see, a wreck of long duration that started in 2009, and had gathered momentum with every year. It also has sparked other wrecks, including the one that now keeps it from being the sole 2014 winner. How much damage will The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck do in 2015? Which agency or department will prove itself to be corrupt, incompetent and mismanaged, which official will continue in a post after proving himself unfit to serve, which inept pronouncement or abuse of power will further degrade American trust and freedom?

I’m not looking forward to learning the answers.

Fraud of the Year

The U.S. Justice Department, which allegedly participated in a plot to force  Sierra Pacific Industries and other defendants  to pay $55 million to the United States over a period of five years and transfer 22,500 acres of land as settlement of charges brought against the company by DOJ for causing a 2007 wildfire that destroyed 65,000 acres of land in California. Naturally, the national news media has barely covered this scandal, which is still in litigation. Runner Up: The Victoria Wilcher scam, which made KFC pay for plastic surgery for a little girl when there was no evidence that the company was in any way involved with her injuries. After the fraud was discovered, it didn’t dare ask for its money back. Well played, fraudsters! Continue reading

Jim Ardis, Mayor of Peoria, Uses The Police To Crush A Social Media Critic, But Never Mind, It’s Not Important Because He’s Not Racist

"OK, we know you have tweets in there! We're coming in..."

“OK, we know you have tweets in there! We’re coming in…”

This story is obviously trivial, because the news media doesn’t think it’s worth getting upset about. After all, it doesn’t involve race:

PEORIA — Police searched a West Bluff house Tuesday and seized phones and computers in an effort to unmask the author of a parody Twitter account that purported to be Mayor Jim Ardis. The account — known as @Peoriamayor on the popular social media service that limits entries to 140 characters — already had been suspended for several weeks when up to seven plainclothes police officers executed a search warrant about 5:20 p.m. at 1220 N. University St. Three people at the home were taken to the Peoria Police Department for questioning. Two other residents were picked up at their places of employment and taken to the station, as well. One resident — 36-year-old Jacob L. Elliott — was booked into the Peoria County Jail on charges of possessing 30 to 500 grams of marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia, but no arrests were made in connection with the Twitter account.”

The Twitter account was obviously a parody, if not an especially deft or clever one. After all, one would have to be a hopeless doofus, and an unusually dim one at that, to believe that the mayor of any city, even Toronto’s ridiculous Rob Ford, would happily tweet about his own drug use, crimes and corruption like the Twitter avatar of the Peoria mayor did.

Yet here was Mayor Ardis’s justification to reporters for his jaw-dropping abuse of power:

“I still maintain my right to protect my identity is my right. Are there no boundaries on what you can say, when you can say it, who you can say it to? You can’t say (those tweets) on behalf of me. That’s my problem. This guy took away my freedom of speech.”

Uh-huh. Show me a how “this guy” broke any law that justifies a police raid, you unbelievably arrogant, incompetent fascist.

Some observations: Continue reading

Joke Ethics, Jay Leno, And The Rats In The Pantyhose

Ugh. Come on.

Fortunately, Jay's successor is ready to go...

Fortunately, Jay’s successor is ready to go…

Jay’s ethics alarm was sure malfunctioning during THAT taping. The Golden Rule is made for situations like this. Surely Jay knew about it? Once?

Louann Giambattista, a former American Airlines flight attendant, had sued the airline in June, claiming that American had discriminated against her as a result of her co-workers’ false allegations that she carried pet rats on board planes in her pantyhose and underwear. I get it: it’s an inherently funny story.  But Jay charged over every line of fairness, respect, compassion and common sense when he showed Giambattista’s photo to his national TV audience, and then, in a repeating segment called  “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda,” challenged three guest comics to make their best jokes about the material. They were rolling, too—some examples..

  • “If I were one of those rats, I would’ve been very upset. I prefer not to sit in cooch.”
  • “I don’t understand this woman at all. If she wanted something that creepy in her underwear, she should have hooked up with me.”
  • Giambattista “coulda used what the rest of us ladies use … a Rabbit” (a popular vibrator).

Classy as ever, I see, Jay! Continue reading

Comments Of The Day: “Clash of the Ethics Dunces: The Web-shaming Student and the Angry Principal”

Tugowar

In May, Ethics Alarms opined on the reported story of a student who set out to embarrass his principal by “web-shaming” her regarding an assumed  DUI arrest that was in fact an arrest for something less serious, and her subsequent reaction, which I regarded as excessive based on the published accounts. The principal, Jamille Brown, then endeared herself to this blog by taking the time to post her own account of what occurred, and also by showing grace and good humor in the process. Now she has given us a more thorough account of the incident from her perspective, in the form of a letter she has sent to the TV station that reported the story initially, WSBTV

In response to it, our own Grand Inquisitor, tgt, has carefully critiqued her account, making some perceptive points. Together the two posts exemplify the collaborative nature of our ethical explorations here, and I am grateful for them.

Here are the Comments of the Day, by Jamille Brown and tgt, on the post “Clash of the Ethics Dunces: The Web-shaming Student and the Angry Principal”.

First, Ms. Brown: Continue reading

Clash of the Ethics Dunces: The Web-shaming Student and the Angry Principal

This doesn't make either of you look very good, guys....

This doesn’t make either of you look very good, guys….

Back when hitch-hiking was in vogue and both hitch-hikers and drivers were being warned about the various horror stories that the transportation transaction had led to through the years, I used to wonder if a murderous hitch-hiker ever got into the car of a homicidal driver, and what ensued. This tale from Riverdale High School (yes, the same school Archie and Veronica go to, apparently), in Georgia is a little like that, though no slaughters were attempted. An ethically inert school principal grossly abused her power in response to a gratuitously cruel student. I suspect this happens rather more often than my hitch-hiking hypothetical.

Student Keandre Varner, on a lark, decided to check and see if a mug shot existed for his high school principal, Jamille Miller Brown.  Sure enough, he found one, so he thought the fair, kind and responsible thing to do was 1) post it on Instagram, and 2) suggest that the mugshot arose from a DUI arrest. Continue reading

Hey Corey Clark, This Streisand Effect’s For You!

Remember Corey Clark? Neither do I.

Remember Corey Clark? Neither do I.

For those of you fortunate enough to have forgotten about Corey Clark: he had a brief fling with celebrity after he was kicked off American Idol in 2003 and later accused then-Idol judge Paula Abdul of secretly helping him advance in the show while they were having a clandestine, and obviously unethical, sexual relationship. He did this, class act that he is, two years later while he was promoting an album release.

I didn’t remember Corey Clark either, until a typical reputation-cleaner (that is, dishonest and threatening) called me on the phone yesterday, misrepresenting himself as working for Clark’s lawyer, and told me that Clark was engaged in litigation regarding “defamatory” material published about him. He said that a post on Ethics Alarms’ predecessor, The Ethics Scoreboard, had “defamed” Clark in 2005 by stating that he had been convicted of a felony, and this was a demand that I either retract that post or take it down.

This, is, of course, approaching the patented territory of Ken at Popehat, whose specialty is opposing creeps who try to censor opinion on the internet by threatening spurious but expensive litigation against bloggers. As I told Clark’s paid lackey, who spouted erroneous legal theories and had a rudimentary understanding of defamation at best, I was only recounting what I had read in published reports at the time. There could be no defamation, as 1) Clark was, at the time, a public figure, 2) I wrote what I thought was true and accurate and 3) there was no malice involved. He asked me for my source, prompting me to say that I would have been able to supply him with one and would have done so gladly if his employer’s client hadn’t waited seven years to bring the post to my attention. The Scoreboard has not been active since 2009. Continue reading