Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 13, 2018: Past, Present, And Future

Happy Morning, everybody!

1. On the Future News front…The Michael Cohen raid has prompted a new outbreak of this particularly odious journalism and punditry trend: writing hysterically about what might happen. I spend so much time telling my wife that it is absurd and self-destructive to spend energy and emotion on dire “what if?” speculation, when sanity only reigns when we deal with what happens, when it happens, and not freak out because it might happen. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer isn’t just for alcoholics, you know:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time;enjoy ing one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace…”

The news media, however, pummels us with dire future news to undermine serenity, create fear, encourage anxiety, distrust, panic and hysteria. All the better to undermine President Trump, after all.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid, for example, admittedly one of the worst of the worst, speculated about what might happen should the president refuse to allow himself to be arrested by federal marshals. Note that there is no evidence that there is anything to arrest him for, but never mind. This is Future News. “What if he refuses to open the White House door? What if he fires any Secret Service agent who would allow the federal marshals in? What if Donald Trump simply decides, ‘I don’t have to follow the law? I refuse to be held under the law. No marshal can get into this White House and any Secret Service agent who defies me is fired,'” she asked.

Today I am reading that Michael Cohen might have incriminating tapes of Donald Trump saying incriminating things. Yes, and he might have 12 toes and three nipples, too. Cohen apparently surreptitiously taped some of his conversations. Now, it is true that Cohen is a uniquely sleazy lawyer, but surreptitiously taping a client is a serious legal ethics breach that would pretty much end his career, not to mention his bar license, it it were proven. Never mind though: what if he taped Trump having sex with a marmot? What if he taped the President speaking Russian?

What might happen isn’t news. There are exceptions, but extensive concentration of speculation and projections, as with the Russian investigation coverage, is misleading and unethical journalism.

2. Incompetent prosecution to the rescue! For some reason, Bill Cosby’s prosecutors, allowed to choose from the more than 70 alleged victims of the serial sexual predator a representative five to show his  modus operandi that victimized Andrea Constand, chose Janice Dickinson, an aging ex-model, huckster, reality show star and publicity hound with the approximate trustworthiness and credibility of Stormy Daniels. Continue reading

A Congress Of Assholes*? Maxine Waters Demolishes Basic Principles Of Ethical Comportment

*The headline relates to this and related posts.

I’ll spare you the horror of having to watch the entire video above, and display the transcript of Watts Rep. Maxine Waters as she abused Treasury Secretary  Steve Mnuchin at a House Financial Services Committee hearing this week. Waters continued to interrupt Mnuchin as he attempted to answer her hostile cross-examination. Her mantra “reclaiming my time” expressed her ridiculous position that any words from the guest of the committee that didn’t specifically address her questions to her satisfaction was an intrusion on her time for shameless grandstanding. Note the committee chairman’s explanation to Mnuchin that while the rules can direct how testifiers should be treated, they cannot dictate how they will be treated. In other words, if a member is determined to behave like a rude, disrespectful jerk, she will.

Here’s the mind-blowing transcript. It didn’t literally blow my mind, hence no KABOOM! designation, because Waters is such a well-known and beyond a shadow of a doubt hyper-partisan fool and embarrassment to the nation that pretty much nothing she might do or say can shock me sufficiently. Does it not occur to Africa-American majority districts that electing Representatives this incompetent, shrill and offensive is not in their best interest, even though the Democratic Party and the news media bend themselves in half to pretend she isn’t a disgrace.

Transcript:

Continue reading

Protest Slogan Ethics, Lies As Enlightenment, And “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”

Witness 128...

Witness 128…

Today’s Washington Post Fact Checker column finally weighs in on whether of not “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” is a lie.  I won’t keep you in suspense: Of course it is.

As I had no ideological reason to pretend that it was otherwise, I identified the phrase as such last November. Since then, it has been wielded by athletes, journalists, members of Congress, protesters, talking heads, professional athletes, and pop stars, while contributing to getting some police officers shot. There was no need for this verdict to take so long. “Better late than never,” you say? How about better responsibly on time, as in when the facts were available to anyone with the integrity to reject a useful catch-phrase that was without basis in fact?

For some reason this is not the regular Post Fact Checker. Maybe Glenn Kessler, a partisan who makes a reasonable  effort to overcome his biases, couldn’t get around them this time, or is sick or dead or something. This Fact Checker is Michelle Ye Hee Lee, and she hardly leaves any room for doubt as she lays the blame for the whole scam squarely on the head of the late Mike Brown’s pal, Dorian Johnson, a.k.a. Witness 128. To be fair, “Hands Up” was not a lie for those who used it profligately after Johnson’s false accounts, for they sincerely, if recklessly and negligently, believed it to be true. This was Johnson’s lie, and though it was obviously self-serving, and though he was as unreliable a source as it was possible to be, confirmation bias allowed all of these good people—well, some of them are good—-beginning with Brown’s parents, to accept it as truth. It was easier for them to believe that white police officers gun down unarmed, gentle giants in the street for no reason other than their color than to question the word of Brown’s scuzzy, criminal friend. Continue reading

It Appears Likely That Michael Brown Did NOT Have His Hands Up When He Was Shot… Now What?

hands up

How does the culture, the news media, the civil rights  industry, and politicians determined to benefit by making African-Americans suspicious, paranoid, racist and, of course, lifetime Democrats, make amends for this? How do they undo the damage to mutual trust and American society?

Obviously they don’t. They don’t even try. In fact, all indications are that they will refuse to acknowledge that the entire, national effort to portray the tragic confrontation between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson as a race-triggered execution was based on a lie that was presumed to be accurate despite much reason to doubt it.

The original claim that Brown was shot and killed after putting his hands in the air came from his friend and partner in crime, Dorian Johnson. Johnson, who already had a record of lying to police, was with Brown prior to the August 9 confrontation, and had joined him in the petty robbery that occurred just before Brown’s arrest. In his TV interviews  after the shooting, Johnson said that Wilson shot Brown in the back, causing him to turn around with his hands up, pleading, ‘I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!’ Before the grand jury, Johnson, who admitted that he hid during the incident and later ran home to change clothes so he wouldn’t be identified, even elaborated and provided minute details to his fabrication, stating under oath that the shot in his back caused Brown’s body to “do like a jerking movement, not to where it looked like he got hit in his back, but I knew, it maybe could have grazed him, but he definitely made a jerking movement.” The forensic evidence showed that Brown was not shot in the back. Continue reading

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Willie Reed ( 1937-2013)

Willie Reed

I began the day, to my surprise, with tears in my eyes from reading an obituary on the front page of today’s Washington Post.

The story announced the death of Willie Reed, who as an African American teenager in 1955, risked his life by testifying in a Mississippi court against the white men who had tortured and murdered Emmet Till, another black teenager, for the Jim Crow “crime” of allegedly whistling at a white woman.

The intensity of my emotional reaction surprised me. I think it was the product of being reminded of the horrific tragedy that befell Till and other black citizens at the height of segregation, and being slapped in the face with the reality, known to me but kept deep in the place in my brain where the ugliest things are sealed away to keep me from incurable despair, of the deranged hate that festered so long—and destroyed so many— in the country I love. I was also overcome with admiration and wonder at the almost unimaginable courage of Reed, who knew that by testifying in open court he was simultaneously  guaranteeing that he would be marked for Till’s fate for the rest of his life. Maybe most of all, I wept out of anger at my ignorance and the warped priorities of our culture and educational system, which ensures that we know the names and life stories of insignificant narcissists like Kim Kardashian, embarrassing political leaders like Michele Bachman, greedy athletes like Lance Armstrong, and cynical demagogues like Al Sharpton, but know nothing of the lives and deeds of unglamorous American heroes like Willis Reed. I consider myself an educated man, but I had never heard of him, which means I am not educated enough. I wish I could apologize to Reed. I wish I could shake his hand. I wish I could say, “thank you.” Continue reading

A Prosecutor Lies, But It’s For A Good Cause…

Yes, Jack McCoy would probably be disbarred in the real world...

Yes, Jack McCoy would probably be disbarred in the real world…

Aaron Brockler, an assistant Cuyahoga County (Ohio, including Cleveland) prosecutor, was fired last month for  using a false identity on Facebook  to try to influence the testimony of  defense witnesses in a homicide case.

He initiated Facebook discussions with two women listed by the defense as alibi witnesses in a murder prosecution. Brockler pretended to be a former girlfriend of the defendant who had a child fathered by him, and urged the witnesses not to “lie for him.”  County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty fired Brockler, who by my count violated at least Ohio legal ethics rules 3.4, 3.7, 3.8, 4.1, 4.2 and 8.4, (tampering with evidence, suborning perjury, becoming a necessary witness, prosecutorial misconduct, misrepresentation of facts, contact with a person represented by counsel and dishonesty) and perhaps some others. Prosecutors are not allowed to tamper with defense witnesses, or try to influence any witness testimony. They are not permitted to contact represented parties in connection with a prosecution, unless the lawyers are involved. They are not permitted to lie or pose as someone they are not over the internet. They are not permitted to make themselves witnesses in their own cases. Brockler wasn’t just fired for cause, he was fired for multiple causes, any one of which would have justified kicking him out the door. Continue reading

In Search of Accountability, Fairness, Justice and a Champion: the Unending Persecution of Anthony Graves

Job would pity Anthony Graves

Governments and other bureaucracies are capable of unimaginable callousness, stupidity, and wrongful conduct, allowing individual fools to multiply their power to harm exponentially, and then to see an inhuman computer-driven monstrosity run amuck as everyone denies responsibility. You could not devise a better example of this process than what Texas is doing to Anthony Graves.

He is an innocent man convicted of murder in 1994 who was released last October after spending 18 years in prison, condemned to death. He had been convicted with fabricated evidence and coached testimony employed against him by former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Siberia, and a state investigation got a Texas judge to set Graves free. But the maw of Texas bureaucracy wasn’t through ruining his life. Continue reading

The Ethics of Compensating the Unjustly Imprisoned

The New York Times last week published the stories of two men, in different states, who were recently freed from prison after it was proven that they were wrongly convicted. Michael A. Green spent 27 years in a Texas penitentiary for a rape he didn’t commit. Thomas Lee Goldstein was locked up 24 years ago for a murder committed by someone else.

The lives of both men have been destroyed, obviously. The important question now is, who is accountable? What is owed to a human being who has been robbed of what should have been the best and most productive years of his life, and who owes it?

Both men will be getting some compensation from the state governments involved, though obviously no amount of money could make them whole: what would you accept in exchange for spending the years from 35 to 60 in a maximum security prison? Goldstein settled a lawsuit for nearly eight million dollars; Green is mulling an offer of $2.2 million from Texas, and may decide to sue to get more. 2.2 million dollars for 27 years in prison…let’s see, that works out to less than $81, 500 a year. Should he take the deal? I would not accept 2.2 million dollars to spend one year in jail, much less 27. Continue reading