Ethics Hero, If A Bit Late To The Party: Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh

Horrified by this story in the Washington Post and others like it,  Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has filed suit against Access Funding and other viatical settlement companies, asserting that they take advantage of vulnerable victims of lead poisoning by purchasing their structured settlements at less than fair-market value.

Gee, ya think?

I have written about this many times and in other forums, and even been threatened by a few the despicable companies (“It’s your money!”…”I have a structured settlement and I need cash now!”) in this cruel and predatory industry. 

Few in the general public know about it or understand what’s going on. Structured settlement are annuities bought by insurance companies to ensure a regular flow of compensatory damages to personal injury and medical malpractice plaintiffs to cover their medical costs and living expenses. The settlements aren’t given out in lump sums because many such plaintiffs are poor and have no experience handling money. A large payment of millions of dollars guarantees that needy family members and friends will beg, plead for and demand loans and hand-outs, while the recipients themselves are tempted to buy luxuries they have long dreamed about with funds intended to cover lifetime cancer treatments.

As I wrote in a post almost seven years ago…

Once they are on their own, however, the compensated victims are targeted by viatical settlement companies, both those with cute opera-singing commercials and those without. They undermine the sound advice of the attorneys with slogans like “It’s your money!” and try to persuade the former plaintiffs to unstructure the structured settlement by selling the annuity’s income stream to the viatical settlement company at a deep discount. Result: the annuity company gets the regular income at bargain rates, and the victims get a new, smaller lump sum to dissipate in exchange. The statistics say that the customer of the viatical settlement company will run out of cash long before he or she runs out of the need for it. But for the company, it’s a sweet deal.

Continue reading

Presenting Ethics Alarms’ 67th Rationalization: The Underwood Maneuver or “That’s In The Past”

HOUSE-OF-CARDS

The latest addition to the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List is #50 A, The Underwood Maneuver, or “That’s in the past.” It is a sub-rationalization of #50, The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares,” and the 67th dishonest, illogical or otherwise ethics-busting excuse for wrongful conduct on the list.

This rationalization has the honor of being named for a President, though a fictional and sinister one: Frank Underwood, the devious, psychopathic, lying and murdering Chief Executive, played by Kevin Spacey, who leads the den of thieves and blackguards who populate the fictional Washington, D.C. in the Netflix drama, “House of Cards.” I owe the series my gratitude for reminding me of this classic rationalization, which is a favorite not only of  President Underwood and his Lady Macbeth-like First Lady, but also—just coincidentally—of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Indeed, Hillary’s current campaign is built on it.

The Underwood Maneuver is versatile. Frank’s favorite use of it is when he is seeking assistance from one of the gazillion elected officials, appointees and other whom he has lied to or metaphorically stabbed in the back. “Why should I trust you now, when you betrayed me?” these poor souls are always asking. “Oh, but that was in the past!” says Frank, in his gentle South Carolina accent. “This is now. We need each other now. What’s done is done. Let’s move forward.” Continue reading

Ethics Jump Ball: What Is An Ethical Reaction To This Story?

Pippa-Bacca

From the BBC (2008):

An Italian woman artist who was hitch-hiking to the Middle East dressed as a bride to promote world peace has been found murdered in Turkey.

The naked body of Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo, 33, known as Pippa Bacca, was found in bushes near the northern city of Gebze on Friday.

She had said she wanted to show that she could put her trust in the kindness of local people.

Turkish police say they have detained a man in connection with the killing.

Reports say the man led the police to the body.

I think I’ll add my reactions to the comments.

Fragments can be found in the tags.

You go first.

__________________

Pointer: Red Flag

Dead Ethics Alarms And Dead Brains In Cleveland

In other words, be just like Cleveland, Ohio.

In other words, be just like Cleveland, Ohio.

When I read that Cleveland was trying to bill the family $500 for the fatally wounded  Tamir Rice to be carried by an ambulance after an incompetent police officer shot the 12-year-old boy as he played with a toy gun in a city park, I began a mental countdown. How long would it be before a public outcry forced the Cleveland municipal government to cover the bill and apologize? It took about a day.

It doesn’t matter how one regards Rice’s death: a racist murder by a cop, excused by the justice system ( black activists, anti-polce race-hucksters  and too many journalists and pundits), blatant incompetence on the part of many adults and institutions, leading to the negligent, tragic death of an innocent child (Ethics Alarms), or something in between. The incident was a massive humiliation for Cleveland, its leadership and the police, justifying all of the anger and raw emotion in its aftermath. Tamir and his family were undeniably victims, and the city was the entity that harmed them. If there is a single individual on the city payroll who is incapable of immediately recognizing the grotesque insult of billing the family for removing the body of the dead child killed by city police, then the city itself is untrustworthy and dysfunctional. As it happens, many city employees must have been aware of the disgusting bill, and every one of them should have been smart enough to know that this was one expense the city had to eat or else. Now we know how and why Tamir died. Incompetent people are running the city, and incompetent people are dangerous.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson apologized at a news conference yesterday, and said that the city would pay whatever wasn’t covered by Medicaid. “It was mistake in terms of us not flagging it, but it was not a mistake in terms of the legal process,” Jackson said. This logic echoes the rationalizations for the conduct of “The Worst Aunt Ever,” who sued her 12-year-old nephew to get insurance covered damages. Continue reading

Victims, Victimizers, and Hypocrites: The Dennis Hastert Affair

12-20-98 Copy photo from 1976 Yorkville Yearbook which shows Dennis Hastert who coached the 1976 state champion wrestling team...

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, the longest serving GOP Speaker in history, has been indicted for lying to the FBI and elaborately evading reporting requirements on large cash withdrawals for  payments he allegedly made to a male former student whom Hastert sexually abused while he was a high school wrestling coach over 30 years ago. If you want to read what is known about the unfolding Washington scandal s far, as well as partisan attempts at spin, you can try Politico, The Week, Talking Points Memo, OpenSecrets.orgWashington Post, Bloomberg Business, The National Memo, NBC News, Washington Monthly, Outside the Beltway, The Hill, Daily Mail, Patterico’s Pontifications and The Daily Kos.

Ethics observations:

1. This is a personal and professional tragedy, no matter what else may be true. Hastert has a family, and once had a career and a relatively solid reputation. The family is still there, though wounded; the rest is gone, presumably forever.

2. Assuming that what is coming out as the reason Hastert was paying millions in hush money is in fact true, he abused his position of trust as a teacher and committed a heinous crime. Nothing that he did subsequently as a public servant, or endured as a consequence of his actions, mitigates the seriousness of that misconduct. Continue reading

Announcing Two New Rationalizations: #24 “It’s My Right!” and #36 A. “You Were Warned”

yield_right_of_way_

The discussions on two recent posts revealed more holes in the Ethics Alarms Unethical Rationalizations List, and these two new additions fill them. I know there are more. #24 will take the place of the current #24, “The Free Speech Confusion,” which is now 24 A. It is properly a sub-rationalization of the new #24. #36 A is a new sub-category of #36, Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.” Continue reading

The Unethical Cosby Victim: Jewel Allison

accuser

The thirty or so declared victims of sexual assault by Bill Cosby (sorry: when we get into double figures, “alleged” is misleading) have given various reasons for not reporting the crimes against them: fear of Cosby’s power, fear of retribution from the entertainment industry, fear of publicity, fear of not being believed, fear of humiliation. A recent addition to the list, however, has given an unequivocally unethical explanation for her 20 year silence in a Washington Post op-ed that has been called “courageous.” Jewell Allison’s confession is not courageous. It is disturbing and ominous. It shows what the trauma of the black experience in the United States has done to some African Americans, causing them to place group identification above reason, decency, good citizenship, compassion and common sense.

She writes:

“When I first heard Andrea Constand and Tamara Green publicly tell their stories about being drugged and assaulted by Cosby, I wasn’t relieved; I was terrified. I knew these women weren’t fabricating stories and conspiring to destroy America’s favorite dad, but I did not want to see yet another African American man vilified in the media. As I debated whether to come forward, I struggled with where my allegiances should lie – with the women who were sexually victimized or with black America, which had been systemically victimized.”

This makes no ethical sense or rational sense. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Monica Lewinsky

Under that bus is Monica Lewinsky, and it wasn't Matt Drudge who threw her there.

Under that bus is Monica Lewinsky, and it wasn’t Matt Drudge who threw her there.

It truly pains me to have to write anything negative about Monica, who was exploited and humiliated by a President of the United States, and had her life permanently derailed because she trusted and even loved a rogue who regarded her as little more than an animated sex toy. Her re-emergence now, however—yes it is sad and desperate and makes me furious at Bill Clinton all over again—in the new guise of a “cyber-bullying” victim is intolerable, a delusion on multiple levels, despicable blame-shifting, and a welcome weasel-out of-accountability-free card for the Clintons. Yeccch.

I’m sorry for what happened to you, Monica, but you’re 40 now: it’s time to start seeing life more clearly—especially your own and the reasons why you are in the mess you are.

“Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one. I was Patient Zero,” Lewinsky said in a speech Monday to Forbes’s Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia. “The first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet.”

It has to take a near-fatal injection of self-serving historical air-brushing for the ex-intern to say this with a straight face, and it tells us volumes about the audience that it didn’t start throwing tomatoes:

  • She wasn’t a “completely private figure.” She was a woman having a sexual affair with the President of the United States while he lied about it—to his wife, his staff, and under oath (I haven’t covered all of the lying, either.) That makes her an individual who is engaged in conduct with tremendous public and official consequences who is only “private” because a powerful official is using his power to make it so. The proper term is “inevitable public figure waiting for the dam to break.”
  • The reason for her humiliation was and is William Jefferson Clinton, and no other. He is the one who described her as “that woman,” while denying what was true. He is the one who made his relationship with her part of a legal record while he was trying to avoid the consequences of another “bimbo eruption,” as his long-time “fixer” liked to call them.

Continue reading

Ray Rice Ethics Train Wreck Update: Now The NFL Is Validating Gender Bigots

Men vs Women: Come on--who would YOU trust?

Men vs Women: Come on–who would YOU trust?

When Roger Goodell and the NFL do  something right in the metastasizing Ray Rice-Adrian Peterson-Who Else Will It Be Tomorrow?-We Don’t Care About Domestic Violence Or Child-Beating But Our Sponsors Think We Should So We’ll Pretend To fiasco, do let me know.

Among the more sinister botches was the league’s cynical PR move of appointing four women to explain to him and the other suits that it’s really bad for a sport that sells role models and heroes to have those key products smacking around small children and women. Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s vice president of community affairs and philanthropy, was given an expanded role as vice president of social responsibility. Lisa Friel, the former head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney’s Office; NO MORE co-founder Jane Randel; and Rita Smith, the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, were also hired to address the problem, which, as everybody should know, only that kinder, more generous, more nurturing, rational and generally more civilized gender even recognizes as a problem.

This is female superiority fantasy, of course, but the media and, naturally, women themselves are grabbing it and running for the goal line. On this morning’s Sunday talking head blab-fests, I must have heard six or seven pundits, most of them women but not all, take a breather from their non-stop condemnation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to express relief that women were finally on the scene to straighten things out for their poor, idiot brothers.

There is no indication, anywhere, that men are less capable of comprehending what is wrong with domestic violence, more rational in dealing with it than women, or more competent to analyze the issue: Continue reading

Abuse-Enabling Author Leslie Morgan Steiner Buys A Berth On The Ray Rice Ethics Train Wreck

"So I guess that means that Roger can take a shot at you now and then, Right, Jessica?"

“So I guess that means that Roger can take a shot at you now and then, right, Jessica?”

As if we didn’t have enough Ethics Train Wrecks whizzing around—let’s see, there’s Ferguson, the I.R.S. cover-up, the Redskins, plus oldies like Penn State and Trayvon Martin still gathering riders, and the spectacular Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck, which is guaranteed at least another six years of track—the Ray Rice Express is gather speed and passengers. It appears feminist, especially abused feminists, are leaping on board as the cars rumble by, and woe to him who is foolish enough to point it out.

Like me, I guess. Today the Washington Post opinion section carried a jaw-dropping essay by Leslie Morgan Steiner, the former Post editor and current author, the lesson of which, as I read it, is that no matter what a woman’s spouse of partner does to her, says to her, threatens her with, or hits her with, she is absolutely absolved of any responsibility or accountability for the harm that comes to her.This, we are told, is because, as Carol Costello (a fellow passenger) said regarding domestic abuse victims like Janay Rice, currently defending her abuser-husband, “It’s complicated.”

To show just how complicated,  Steiner presents a long list of the various hints she got from her lover-man that he might well just kill her some day, including…

Three months into our relationship, the night he choked me during sex and I wrote it off as weird but somehow erotic (for him; not for me).

The morning five days before our wedding when he first physically attacked me, because, he said with his hands around my neck, “you remind me of my mother.”

During our honeymoon, when he punched me so hard my head hit the window in our car…

The first time he threatened to kill our dog.

The first time he pushed me down a flight of stairs.

The first time he threatened to pull the trigger of the loaded gun he held at my head.

Steiner makes certain that she lets us know that she’s a Harvard grad, apparently believing that this eliminates the obvious response, “What an idiot! She also makes a point of noting that yes, once she too derided women who stay with abusive partners, as if this fact inoculates her against well-founded criticism. It doesn’t, and while I’m sure it’s complicated, she’s an idiot, at least in this critical matter.

Her reasons for staying in the relationship do not rebut these conclusions. They are..

  • “No one in my life had ever made me feel so safe, loved, beautiful and validated as he did during the early months of our relationship.” And do we keep, say, automobiles that we loved to drive in the early months that we owned them, after they prove themselves to be unreliable, expensive lemons? Is this a rational reason to do so?
  • “I thought I was the only woman who could help him face his demons.” Well, she might be the only woman willing to help him face his demons while regularly being abused by him.
  • “I confused pity with love, feeling sorry for him because he had been beaten and starved by his stepfather as a child.” This is so nonsensical that it defies argument. Would she feel similarly sorry for her rapist, her child’s molester? In what universe does pity excuse abuse? They taught her that at Harvard?
  • “In between the terrible times, he still made me laugh.” Gag me with a spoon.
  • “I loved him.” God, read “Oliver Twist.” See the musical “Oliver!.” if Harvard didn’t cover English fiction. You love people who beat you up? Or is it pity, like you said three sentences ago?

These aren’t reasons. These are delusions, self-destructive rationalizations, and lame excuses.

Yet somehow, the author thinks they are ennobling, and that anyone who dares to call this conduct what it is—idiotic, reckless, and irresponsible, and thus entailing some accountability for the results of making terrible and irrational choices, as with every other terrible and irrational choices all of us make—is missing some grand truth. No, we really aren’t. She writes,

I wish the world could give Janay Rice, and other victims of relationship violence, the dignity they deserve.

Instead of condemning her for loving a troubled man, let’s educate ourselves about the twisted psychology of abusive love, so that we can be there for her if she decides to leave. Firing Roger Goodell and blaming the NFL won’t do Janay Rice, or any other domestic violence victims, any good.

Rather, we should hold abusers — and no one else — responsible for the damage they inflict.

Wait, what? What’s dignified about letting a man dominate you, threaten you, abuse you and dehumanize you? Does the victim’s terrible reasons for putting up with abuse matter at all? Steiner’s are bad enough: I’m sorry, but I do not respect an intelligent woman who allows herself to be brutalized because “He makes me laugh.” Ah, how we chortled in that afterglow when he knocked in my teeth with that pogo stick! But I can imagine reasons that are less respectable: what if she likes it? What if she endures it because she likes the money more than she minds the pain? What if she wants to hit him at will,, even knowing that she will get the worse of the exchange? All of these reasons earn dignity? Nonsense. This is pure a  “war against women” war against logic: women can do no wrong. Sure they can.

I think the question of why men hurt the women they think they love is at least as bewildering as why their women stay with them. Doesn’t everybody wonder about this, including the abusers themselves? I’m sure the reasons for their conduct is also “complicated,” full of pain, self-esteem issues, childhood traumas, and more. Do the abusers deserve dignity too? Why not? Because they are men? Because they are the aggressors? Not necessarily, as we saw in the Rice Knock-Out Tap. Because holding a loaded gun to your lover’s head is crazier than staying with someone who hold a loaded gun to your head? Is it? I judge that competition a tie.

Steiner’s position isn’t just a self-excusing cop-out, it’s dangerous. It is exactly what abused women do not need to hear. “Just leave him on your own time, dear, when you are ready, and he no longer makes you laugh. Nobody will judge you. Just keep your fingers crossed that you don’t end up on a slab first.”

Alcoholics are in the grip of an illness, but they are told that they, and they alone, are responsible for saving themselves, and that if they don’t, they are responsible for that too. If someone refuses to leave a burning house because “she loves that house,” and “No house had ever made her feel so safe, loved, beautiful and validated ” and burns to death, is she absolved from responsibility for her foolish choice?

Ray Rice has no excuses, no mitigating circumstances, nothing, including his demons, that should shield him from legal punishment and societal condemnation. But Janay Rice, at this point, has no excuses either. We all are accountable for our choices. Women get no dispensation, and there is no dignity in a woman allowing a man to harm her.

_____________________________

Sources: Washington Post