He Knew

Raquel Rutledge reports that Eric Haertle knew the medical products he sold were infected:

The former co-owner and chief operating officer of a Hartland pharmaceutical company — once among the nation’s largest manufacturers of alcohol wipes — has pleaded guilty to shipping a product he knew was contaminated with dangerous bacterium.

Eric Haertle, who owned Triad Pharmaceuticals and its sister company, H & P Industries, along with his two siblings, made “false representations to FDA,” allowing hundreds of cases of alcohol pads labeled as “sterile” to be sent out when he knew samples from the lot had tested positive for bacillus cereus, a potentially deadly bacterium, according to the plea agreement filed in federal court….

Triad and H & P were named in at least 10 federal and state lawsuits claiming their products sickened and in some cases killed someone, including a case involving a 2-year-old Houston boy.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation in 2011 found the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had been in the company’s manufacturing plants repeatedly during the previous decade, citing the company for numerous health and safety violations.

At one visit, months before the Houston boy, Harry Kothari, died, FDA inspectors warned the company its product sterilization process was insufficient. But the agency took no formal enforcement action. It wasn’t until April of 2011, several months after Kothari’s death from a bacillus cereus infection, that U.S. Marshals raided the company and seized $6 million worth of product, essentially shutting down its operations.

Via Former owner of Triad, company whose contaminated wipes were tied to deaths, convicted of felony @ JSOnline.

See, also, full coverage of this matter in the Journal Sentinel‘s Shattered Trust series.

There’s an oft-repeated quotation that one should ‘never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.’ (The remark is commonly misattributed to Napoleon; its provenance lies elsewhere, and is more recent.)

In any event, self-professed incompetence is an all-too-easy (and often false) defense among sophisticated wrongdoers.

Eric Haertle wasn’t merely negligent.

He knew.

The ‘Best Words’ Turn Out to Be Someone Else’s Words

Donald Trump insists that he uses ‘the best words‘ and that he will only hire ‘the best people.’ Turns out, some of those best people have found the best words not of their own expression, nor even of Trump’s, but of third parties from whom they have liberally plagiarized:

Monica Crowley, President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s pick for a top National Security Council job, plagiarized numerous passages in her Ph.D. dissertation, Politico Magazine has found.

An examination of the dissertation and the sources it cites identified more than a dozen sections of text that have been lifted, with little to no changes, from other scholarly works without proper attribution. In some instances, Crowley footnoted her source but did not identify with quotation marks the text she was copying directly. In other instances, she copied text or heavily paraphrased with no attribution at all.

Via Trump Pick Monica Crowley Plagiarized Parts of Her Ph.D. Dissertation @ Politico Magazine.

The Sketchy – But Revealing – UW-Whitewater Dormitory Stories 

The big UW-Whitewater story last week wasn’t about a dormitory, but about a lawsuit against former Chancellor Telfer and current Athletic Director Amy Edmonds

The dormitory stories are at best evidence of administrative incompetence, at worst evidence of a manipulated story (albeit ham-handedly).  They also, ironically, offer a dark motivation for the repeated actions of UW-Whitewater officials concerning sexual assault reporting. 

Background.  On Sunday evening, 8.21, the Journal Sentinel published a story about how UW-Whitewater dorm limbo could crimp recruitment. I posted on the story the next day, noting that even by the story’s own terms, the key issue wasn’t a dorm, but the influx of out-of-state students from Illinois. SeeDorm-Construction Isn’t the Big Story.

Five days later, on Friday evening, the Journal posted a follow-up to the dormitory story.  SeeUW-Whitewater dorm back on track.

Turns out, the Journal story was stale even before the first installment on 8.21:

Gov. Scott Walker signed the final contract to hire an architect/engineering firm for the UW-Whitewater residence hall the same day the project was singled out by the regents during their [August 18th] meeting in Madison. The project was working its way through the pipeline in a normal progression, according to Steve Michels, communications director for the state Department of Administration….

UW officials weren’t notified that the governor had signed the contract until Tuesday [8.23], the day after a story about the project delay appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

(In fact, the story appeared online on 8.21, but either way the dorm had been approved before reporter Herzog published a word of her story.)

A few observations:

Convenient, coincidental. How convenient it must have been, on the same day that news broke of a lawsuit against UW-Whitewater, that an unrelated  (and actually resolved) issue was available to divert attention from a more important matter.

The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Wisconsin on 8.18 – university officials surely knew of it before reporter Karen Herzog’s story appeared online or in print.

Incompetent. Honest to goodness, could Herzog not have called to ask the status of the dorm before writing her first story? That first story makes no mention of any attempt to call any state officials. 

The story seems to rely completely and totally on the account of Jeff Arnold, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs at UW-Whitewater

Either Herzog was negligent to omit reference of a call to the state, was negligent not to call the state, or was a dupe in a UW-Whitewater effort to push a non-issue (dorm already approved) over an ongoing, serious one (federal lawsuits and federal Title IX investigations). 

Ineffectual. Since the dorm had already been approved, what does that say about the Vice Chancellor Arnold’s competence or influence that supposedly (1) he didn’t know and (2) nobody bothered to tell him promptly?

Ineffectual, Part 2. All litigation is uncertain. I’ve no idea how either the lawsuit or Title IX administrative claims will develop.

I do know that both stories are now national ones,  and that local efforts to shift the subject are futile (both because the stories have spread too far and because the university’s Media Relations staff are incapable of effectively spinning these accounts against an accurate telling in reply).

Motivation.  Whether Arnold’s fuss over a dorm that had already been approved was from his own incompetence or as a public relations diversion, it’s revealing in a deeper way.

Astonishingly, in the first story, reporter Herzog unintentionally supplies a motivation for the university’s actions to ignore or shove aside those who spoke of sexual assaults on campus: the university was under competitive, financial pressure to recruit out-of-state students.  

Here, from Herzog’s first story:

Since 2009, the school has doubled admissions applications and enrollment of Illinois students. Illinois residents made up 9% of the freshman class in 2009; now they are about 16% of the freshman class, with the largest number coming from McHenry and Lake counties.

Wisconsin resident enrollment is holding steady, according to school officials.

Not having enough housing may work against recruiting efforts in Illinois.

“The lack of housing is constraining our growth,” Arnold said. “It’s our feeling we’re losing students because of our inability to provide housing. Our freshman classes have been capped due to our housing.”

If Arnold thinks that lack of housing will constrain growth, imagine what repeated stories of sexual assualt on campus would do to those same recruitment efforts.

The pressure and push for out-of state-students, from 2009 to 2014, coincides with the clear majority of Richard Telfer’s tenure as chancellor.

Herzog’s first story, one that that Arnold seems to have spoon-fed to her, offers a dark, specific, numerical motivation to suppress assault reporting. 

One could have surmised as much without the story, to be sure, but if the story should be a public-relations inspiration, it’s an especially poor one. 

Expressing public concern over recruiting at the same time students and a former employee are filing complaints about mishandled sexual assault cases, unjust termination, and retaliation is particularly dense. 

More to come. 

Long Miles Ahead

I posted yesterday on the federal lawsuit filed against former Chancellor Richard Telfer and current Athletic Director Amy Edmonds.  SeeFormer Coach Fader Files Federal Lawsuit Against UW-Whitewater Officials.

One should not expect a quick resolution to the many issues the lawsuit raises, of mistreatment of honest employees & disregard for assault survivors. On the contrary, in a matter like this there are likely to be tactics of  (1) silence, (2) changing the subject,  (3) lying, (4) blaming terminated employees and assault survivors, and (5) self-serving but unethical insistence that injury to a few served a higher institutional purpose.

We’re nowhere near the end of all this. A federal lawsuit, and a federal investigation into Title IX handling of sexual assault complaints, is a consequence of, but not a certain cure for, the grievances asserted.

There is much yet ahead. 

Former Coach Fader Files Federal Lawsuit Against UW-Whitewater Officials

At Channel 3000, investigative reporter Adam Schrager reports on a federal lawsuit that former Coach Timothy Fader has filed against UW-Whitewater officials, in their individual capacities. (I had promised readers that I would continue to follow this story, and will continue to do so as the case unfolds.)

Both current Athletic Director Amy Edmonds and former Chancellor Richard Telfer are named defendants:

The lawsuit asserts that Fader was not renewed as the school’s wrestling coach in the summer of 2014 because he immediately reported an alleged sexual assault committed by one of his recruits directly to Whitewater police and not to his supervisors on campus, per university policy. After that, Fader alleges an official at a college in Minnesota called Edmonds for a job reference but was told that she could not “tell him the whole story,” creating “even more mystery and (implying) additional but unreported misconduct on Fader’s part,” according to the lawsuit.

Fader also makes the claim that there are no records of an earlier sexual assault he had reported to university officials. UW-Whitewater is facing two Title IX complaints filed with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Education in the last two years. Title IX legislation was passed by Congress in 1972 to prohibit discrimination by gender in federally-funded education programs.

See, Former UW-Whitewater wrestling coach files lawsuit : AD, former chancellor named as defendants @ Channel 3000.

See, additionally, prior posts about Coach Fader and UW-Whitewater officials’ conduct.

More to come.

Below is an embedded copy of the federal complaint:


Download (PDF, 6.78MB)

The Claims of Ongoing Incidents on Campus (Updates)

Update, Thursday afternoon, 2:30 PM.  UW-Whitewater officials are now contending that a photo with students in blackface had a benign meaning.  See, Image spurs concerns about race at UW-Whitewater @ Channel 3000.  From that story: “Kopper later said the students said they just had a facial and took a picture. She said the students did not mean for it to be harmful and did not know the implications.”

There have been campus complaints about the racial environment over more than this picture. See, WSG Discusses Campus Climate, 2.3.16, http://royalpurplenews.com/wsg-discusses-campus-climate/.

No one is likely to be satisfied with this: some will say that Kopper reacted too quickly initially, others will contend there are issues that trouble many students apart from an explanation of single photo (and the explanation, itself, is likely to surprise some).

I’ll contend that there is a need for an ongoing review of the campus culture.  It’s clear that grievances, of whatever merit, do not stem from one incident.

In these matters (and with sexual assault cases), I have advocated airing and reviewing claims, rather than ignoring them.  That way alone acknowledges the rights (and dignity) of individuals as claimants or in their own defense.  The obligation of society is to design a full and fair process to the very height of our abilities.  America is an advanced society – we are more than capable of the task.

Update, Thursday afternoon, 1:30 PM.  Below you will find a copy of the UW-Whitewater announcement from this morning.  One can guess that there will be a discussion about this, and perhaps a modification of the original statement.  If a modification appears, I’ll add it to this post.

Earlier today, UW-Whitewater’s Chancellor, Beverly Kopper, made an announcement about recent, serious concerns from students of racial incidents on campus, excerpted below:

“Dear Campus Community,

Last night a disturbing racist post that was made to social media was brought to my attention. This post was hurtful and destructive to our campus community. While social media can certainly bring about positive change, it can also be a place that deeply hurts and harms others.

Tuesday night I held the first of what I promise will be more Pizzas with the Chancellor. Approximately 80 students attended the gathering and, frankly, they shared with me some truly upsetting stories about their experiences on campus including the use of racial slurs and microaggressions. It took courage and strength for our students to share these painful stories in public and I am deeply grateful for their bravery. Some of our multicultural and nontraditional students feel the environment on campus is not welcoming to all. Over and over, the students in attendance expressed their need to be heard and for campus to do more than just talk.

These are serious issues that must be addressed. I will have another Pizza with the Chancellor with students at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, in the Hamilton Room of the University Center and will focus on our campus culture.

On Tuesday night, we also talked about how each of us has the responsibility to make sure every student, faculty and staff member is respected, heard and appreciated for their life experiences and their differences. We are a stronger campus, a more vibrant campus because of our diversity….

Online morning of Thursday, 2.18.16, Message from Chancellor Kopper, http://www.uww.edu/news/2016-02-chancellor-message .  Original preserved in full as a screenshot.

Now I’ve been writing for a while, and I’ve seen committees and initiatives come and go, so you’ll excuse me if I mention that the only change that matters – that assures and endures – is fundamental change.

(Needless to say, this subject replaces the weekly feature normally appearing on Thursdays, a feature that will resume next week.)

Ackman’s Right About Herbalife

Bill Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square Capital, has waged a long campaign against Herbalife (in which he has a publicly-disclosed short position, that is, a bet against Herbalife’s future). Ackman’s a capitalist, activist, and philanthropist. (His politics are not mine – he recently urged Michael Bloomberg to run for president; Bloomberg is no libertarian.)

In his campaign against Herbalife, however, one sees Ackman’s deep humanity, a humanity wholly consistent with capitalism’s respect for individuals. Herbalife is a fraud and a cheat, offering a false promise to vulnerable people who invest in what’s truly a mid-level marketing scam. It’s more pyramid scheme than company. They prey on hopeful but unsophisticated small investors, often those who would like to share in America’s promise. Michael O. Johnson, CEO of Herbalife, is a repulsive schemer.

Above, I have embedded a video that Ackman has produced, where victims of Herbalife tell how they’ve been cheated.

Ackman has said that he will carry his short position against Herbalife “to the end of the earth.” That’s the very definition of a respectable position, view, or belief: that one will hold on, against any and all, to the very end. Not everyone believes Bill Ackman’s claims; in fact, Herbalife’s stock has been doing fairly well of late. His bet against them has been an expensive one.

But if he should be right, truly right, then why would he not double and double again his efforts to persuade others?

So he is doing, and in so doing, Bill Ackman is doing right, not merely for his investors, but for the many small investors that Herbalife cheats each and every day.

Looking at this one way, Bill Ackman didn’t have to wage a long war against Herbalife; he might have chosen any number of alternative causes. Looking at this another way – properly, I think – he most certainly did have to wage war against Herbalife, whatever the time or cost.

There is much to admire in his campaign against that foul company, and reason to emulate a commitment to fight ‘to the end of the earth’ in defense of other causes, too.

Here’s a link to more from Pershing Square: Facts About Herbalife.

See, also, a large (over 300 pages) pdf file with the case against Herbalife.

About That Accreditation at UW-Whitewater…

Last week, UW-Whitewater’s administration announced, in oddly grand terms, the results of an accreditation review from the HLC.  (That would be the ‘Higher Learning Commission,’ one of dozens of self-designated accrediting organizations of the same ilk.)  One reads that the accreditation was ‘a weighty stamp of approval’ of our campus administration’s actions. The accreditation was nothing of the kind. Much of it relies on supposed ‘evidence’ of good conduct that is, in fact, evidence of nothing truly happening on campus. Nothing.

For sexual assault survivors, in particular, the HLC accreditation is a dishonest fig leaf.

Consider how the HLC report finds ‘evidence’ of ethical conduct:

2 – Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct

The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.

2.A – Core Component 2.A

The institution operates with integrity in its financial, academic, personnel, and auxiliary functions; it establishes and follows policies and processes for fair and ethical behavior on the part of its governing board, administration, faculty, and staff.

Rating

Met

Evidence

The University of Wisconsin – Whitewater maintains a deep commitment to integrity and ethical conduct as evidenced by a number of documents including those related to a long history of shared governance, inclusive decision making, equal opportunities, and personnel rules for UW-W faculty and staff. Meetings with deans, other academic leaders, faculty and staff confirm the commitment.

Board of Regents policies further support a high standard of integrity as outlined in Board of Regents Measures to Eliminate Racism, Consensual Relationships, Gender Discrimination, Harassment & Retaliation and a variety statutes listed in Chapter 19 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

Emphasis mine.

For the HLC, evidence of proper local conduct is a document or – honest to goodness, wait for it – a state statute.

No, and no again: only actual ethical conduct is evidence of actual ethical conduct.  Documents and statutes are no evidence whatever of how local administrators or others are behaving.  Only how they behave is evidence of how they’re behaving.

Imagine, for example, that Martians visited the United States in 1925, and wanted to learn about the behavior of Americans from that time.

Mars_23_aug_2003_hubbleLet’s suppose that the leader of the Martian expedition sent field workers across America to learn about how residents of the United States lived in 1925. Out the extraterrestrial field workers went, to explore this country.

Upon their return to the Martian spacecraft, an elderly Martian asks the field workers a few questions, among them a question about Americans’ drinking habits.

“Do Americans consume alcoholic beverages?’ the Martian leader asks.

“No,” replies one of the Red Planet’s investigators. “No one in America drinks any alcoholic beverages.”

“How do you know this?” asks the elderly Martian. “What evidence have you found?”

“Well,” say the younger ones, “we checked, and these Americans have a constitutional amendment1 that forbids consumption of alcohol, so we know that there is no drinking of alcohol among them.”

No one who values learning and reasoning would settle for the young Martians’ supposed evidence about alcohol; no one who values learning and reasoning should settle for this feeble claim of good-conduct-because-the-rules-say-so.   This administration’s proffer of evidence is an embarrassment to higher learning, and unworthy of so many deserving students and faculty.

Sadly, there’s even worse in the HLC report, on page 54 (page 7 of the ‘Compliance Team Template’):

As is the trend nationwide, there appears to be a concern about the number of unwanted sexual advances.

These bland words are simultaneously despicable and false.  They’re false because they describe concern about ‘unwanted sexual advances’ when the actual concern is about rape and about administrative handling of rape cases.  They’re despicable because the brief mention of the subject does all it can to minimize the seriousness of injury to people, and also the seriousness to those who are accused, too (‘appears to be a concern,’ ‘as is the trend nationwide’ and the euphemism ‘unwanted sexual advances’).

Hundreds of millions are spent at this public institution, including sums for poorly-written press releases.  A career in feeble, mendacious excuse-making is an unworthy one.

UW-Whitewater’s students, faculty, and Whitewater’s residents deserve a better administration than this.

1. In fact, the Martians would have been wrong even about what the Eighteenth Amendment, on its face, required.  That now-repealed provision actually restricted only the ‘manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors,’ rather than their consumption.  Not only would they have been wrong to rely on the Eighteen Amendment as evidence that Americans didn’t drink, but they also would have read the Amendment incorrectly.

About Extraordinary Accounts

It’s my fortune to receive a steady flow of email, from sharp and interesting people.  It’s better to read than to write, and those who write to me give me more than I have given, or could give, them.  (Some readers, in fact, prefer email, and that’s why there’s more than one way to contact me.)

In the email that I receive (and occasional comments that I do not post), sometimes comes an extraordinary account.  Now, I am not the oldest man in Whitewater, but I am well past being the youngest, so extraordinary accounts are less surprising to me than they once were.

It’s enough to say that I hear and read more than I write.  Sometimes that’s because a contention about public policy – no matter how serious the contention – lacks adequate confirmation for immediate publication.  Perhaps information that confirms or refutes an account will come to light, making an initially unripe claim ready for posting.  Perhaps, instead, that information will never come, and a contention remains forever unripe.

The social obligation of blogging – and the exercise of a free person’s right in this country – requires some patience and some diligence.  One sometimes waits for more information, and other times researches from the many documents, studies, and statements available to learn more about an account, especially a serious one.

And yet, and yet, although one writes less than one reads, so also one observes and researches more than one writes.

There’s no need to follow the practice of so many town squires of our small but beautiful city, who rush to crow over their unconvincing, self-serving claims.

One can afford to be deliberate and methodical.  Those who have expressed freely their confidence by sharing difficult, extraordinary accounts (thank you, truly) will best be respected through a careful, diligent consideration of those accounts.

An Open Note to Leaders of the Municipal Government, the School District, and UW-Whitewater

Along the lines of listing key topics (see the right sidebar at FREE WHITEWATER for a list of particular areas of concern), it’s worth being clear that important issues in one part of the city should not be ignored in other parts.

An Open Note to Leaders of Government, the School District, and UW-Whitewater: misconduct of officials in one public institution does not entitle those implicated to speak without criticism on unrelated matters elsewhere.

When officials who have tolerated or excused misconduct within their own institutions look to change the subject at another forum, those who allow them to change that subject are complicit in creating a distraction from serious wrongs.  No reasonable person owes anyone that distraction; those who aid struggling leaders in subject-changing in this way are, themselves, culpable of a secondary wrong.  This should be obvious, but somehow institutional leaders in Whitewater are too dense to grasp the point, or too callous to care.

No matter: those officials who invite someone for a lesser discussion can expect direct questions about why they ignored discussion of serious wrongs of the invited guest’s institution. Those officials have every right, however disordered, to offer public-relations cover to others.   They do not, however, have the right do so with impunity.

Whitewater’s various leaders have had years of carrying on this way, aiding each others’ attempts to distract from institutional wrongs.  These years have been years too many; there shouldn’t, and so won’t, be more.

The Four-Dog Defense

Readers familiar with organizational or political excuse-making are likely familiar with the four-dog defense.  The provenance of the defense is uncertain, but Acronym Required describes its four points nicely, citing a story from the St. Petersburg Times:

  • First of all, I don’t have a dog.
  • And if I had a dog, it doesn’t bite.
  • And if I had a dog and it did bite, then it didn’t bite you.
  • And if I had a dog and it did bite, and it bit you, then you provoked the dog.

Variations along these lines are commonly used to explain away mistakes, errors, or injuries, often in cases of negligence.

Reed Hall’s Inauspicious Choices

Reed Hall, who ‘boldly,’ ‘innovatively’ uses the private title of CEO for an organization that runs on public money, has written two defenses to his agency’s latest audit fiasco.  The first of those appears as a few platitudinous paragraphs online (‘WEDC takes bold, innovative approach to economic development,’ subscription req’d,  and the second as a reply to the Legislative Audit Bureau’s one-hundred-sixteen-page audit from this month.)

Consider how Hall touts his agency’s accomplishments, with the same “expected to create or retain” language that Republicans criticized ceaselessly (and rightly) in Pres. Obama’s stimulus package.  Imprecision and ambiguity were once a problem the GOP criticized.  Now, a sketchy phrase is at the center of how Hall describes the WEDC’s work.

Hall wants you to think that there’s been improvement in his agency’s performance, of course, but he deceptively hides the reason for better WEDC loan delinquency rates. 

Hall does this by mentioning a May 2013 audit and the May 2015 audit, while simultaneously omitting information from a September 2014 audit that undermines his claims of a legitimately lower delinquency rate.

First, what Hall hopes you’ll take at face value:

As a result of our efforts, our loan delinquency rate dropped from 2.7 percent in 2013 to 0.2 percent in 2014. The uncollectable loan balance declined from $5.5 million in 2013 to $1.3 million in 2014, and the percentage of performance reports that are late fell from 55 percent to 5.4 percent in two years.

Then, the truth he omits, as revealed in a September 2014 audit:

Of the $7.7 million decrease in troubled loans held by WEDC, the biggest chunk — $3.2 million — came from loans that were written off by WEDC because they were 90 days past due.

For the state to proceed with the collection process, those loans had to be transferred from WEDC to the Department of Administration. So by itself that change is just a bureaucratic shuffle, not a gain for taxpayers.

The audit didn’t examine what had happened to the loans after they went to the administration department.

The next biggest chunk of past due loans, worth $2.1 million, had their contracts rewritten by WEDC to delay repayment by the borrowers and $1.3 million in loans were forgiven by WEDC in whole or in part.

Hall gets better figures by concealing that the WEDC has shuffled loans to another agency and has simply written many other loans off.  

I’ll say there are two possibilities: Reed runs a multi-million-dollar, taxpayer-funded agency, yet is unable to count to three (skipping the second of three audits), or he knows that there have been three, but deceptively hopes you’ll remember only two.  

Dunce or deceiver? 

Hard to see how that’s an auspicious choice for Mr. Hall, no matter how bold and innovative he claims the WEDC to have been.

The Tragedy of Dr. Oz

Dr. Mehmet Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon and vice chairman of the surgery department at Columbia University’s medical school. 

Most people know him, sadly, as a celebrity,  television star, or as a promoter of quack remedies. 

Other prominent physicians across America, at leading institutions, have had enough of the embarrassment that Oz’s sales pitches are to medicine.  They’ve asked
Columbia to remove Oz from his position:

In the letter sent via e-mail this week by Dr. Henry I. Miller of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, the doctors refer to Oz warning his viewers about arsenic in certain apple juice brands and other stances he has taken.

“Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops,” the letter states. “Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”

See, Physicians urge Columbia University to cut its ties with Dr. Oz @ Washington Post.   See, also, Half of Dr. Oz’s medical advice is baseless or wrong, study says @ Washington Post.

Columbia has refused, citing Dr. Oz’s academic freedom to speak in public forums as he wishes. 

That’s a tenuous defense, as Stanford’s Miller notes that “Oz’s promotion of worthless products that might have side effects and that delay patients’ seeking safe and effective therapies threatens public safety.”

(There’s no First Amendment issue here, as Columbia is a private university.  Academic freedom is a separate claim, but it seems weak to me: it’s junk science Oz is peddling, and an academic program has a justification to reject him for demonstrably false bio-medical claims.)

The principal tragedy in all this, of course, is that impressionable people might rely on Oz’s claims and become ill, or waste vast amounts of money without improvement.

There’s another tragedy, though: Oz legitimately earned his position at Columbia, but he’s thrown away a commitment to science for personal financial gain, or additional notoriety, or something else that’s a debasement of medicine.

Neither his past accomplishments, nor his celebrity status, are an excuse for using his abilities for selfish and false ends.   That he earned his faculty position does not make right the wrongs he’s been doing by luring people into scams.

Dr. Oz needn’t have done this, but he did do this. 

No one in all the world owes him his error, especially since his error may lead to the injury of vulnerable people seeking necessary cures. 

No one owes greedy hucksters their quackery. 

Each day and every day, one is obligated to use all one has, to the best of one’s abilities, to try – at least to try – to meet the best standards of science and reasoning

There is no past accomplishment, there is no present status, that relieves the fortunate from their obligation on behalf of the less fortunate to recommit to these goals each morning. 

It’s more than sad that Dr. Oz either doesn’t see, or doesn’t care, about this large obligation. 

It’s there, nonetheless.

How UW-Whitewater Treated a Sexual Assault Victim

I’ve written before about the handling of sexual assault complaints nationwide and at UW-Whitewater. The more one reads on the matter, the more concerned one becomes, both generally and locally.

There’s a new and troubling story about how UW-Whitewater handled an assault victim’s Title IX assault complaint at WISC-TV. In the report, entitled, Graduate speaks about filing Title IX complaint against UW-Whitewater, one learns that a sexual assault victim felt that her experience filing a complaint – in her own words, was

worse than the assault. Worse. A lot worse. I regret with every… coming forward and saying anything.

In response to these specific injuries, as you’ll see in the video, Chancellor Telfer can bring himself to do no more than issue a general, bland statement that all is well on campus. It is impossible to overstate how unworthy is his response, so far beneath the standard of a man or woman in respect of another’s injuries.

There’s much more to write about this administration’s conduct – and one may be assured that I am committed to that long and thorough effort – as to remain indifferent or silent would be inconceivable. Simply inconceivable.

Above one finds the video and a link to the online story. Below one finds a transcript from WISC-TV of the report.

Transcript: Transcript from WISC-TV.

See, also, the It’s On Us Campaign and Not Alone, a site for those who have experienced sexual assault with resources of support.

The Act Utilitarians

The worst of officials, even in a fair society, look like a parody of utilitarians: as though they were the crudest act utilitarians, justifying any action merely by whether it produces a presumed, aggregate benefit of happiness.

(Motivated only consideration of aggregate human enjoyment, for example, a perverse society of dog-haters might commit acts of cruelty against animals. Needless to say, a well-ordered society does not tolerate animal cruelty, let alone revel in it.)

Even among the many kinds of utilitarianism (itself a kind of consquentialism), there aren’t many who would take so crude an act utilitarian position. 

The majority of utilitarians recoil from a simple act utilitarianism. (Most utilitarians are, I’d imagine, rule utilitarians, adhering to rules derived from their reflections on what produces happiness among many people living in well-ordered societies.) 

But among the thoughtless, or among the selfish, there’s little more justification beyond a simple-minded act utilitarianism – ‘we did what we did for the greater good’ (where that greater good is a supposed net satisfaction among members of a community). 

At best, this ilk is thoughtless because it ignores individuals and denies individual right and liberties; at worst it is selfish because the professed community good is, at bottom, merely the reputational interest of a few leaders, not the welfare of their communities. 

Yet, however extreme these views seem, do they not lie at the heart of countless institutional scandals?  In so many of those cases, is not one official or his minion liable to whisper, ‘Do you think that publicizing the injury to one or a few justifies tarnishing an entire organization’s reputation? Don’t you think that you should think of the greater good, and stay silent?’

The greater good in these cases isn’t the good of the institution, but merely the wrongful preservation of bad leaders’ reputations.  They shamelessly, selfishly wrap themselves in the garb of a large institution or great number of people, only to conceal their self-preservation. 

(One can guess that I’m no utilitarian, although I see some versions of utilitarianism as less objectionable – as less odious – than others.  That’s a subject for another time.  For now, my point is that poor policy often looks like the least persuasive, least palatable form of utilitarianism – it looks like utilitarianism as farce & tragedy.

Among the truly vile beliefs into which people may fall – racism, bigotry, unjustified aggression, and collectivism being notable examples – a severe act utilitarianism is surely also one. 

One will find it where officials neglect or otherwise injure the few, and then insist that such neglect or those injuries were justified for the sake of the many. 

Seventeen Questions: Injustice in Walworth County Wrongly Sends a Fourteen-Year-Old to Jail

Yesterday, I posted about an appellate court decision that reversed a juvenile’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.  See, Injustice in Walworth County Wrongly Sends a Fourteen-Year-Old to Jail

Today I’ll post several questions concerning the decision and two published accounts about of it. 

The appellate decision (“Appellate Decision”) is online at State v. Charles C. S., Jr., No. 2014AP1045, unpublished (Wis. Ct. App. Feb. 11, 2015), available at https://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.html?content=html&seqNo=134396;. 

The two published stories are from the Gazette, at Appeals court calls for Walworth County new trial in juvenile arson case (“Gazette 021315”) and Walworth County DA says detective, prosecutor acted correctly in juvenile case (“Gazette 021615”), subscription req’d for both Gazette stories. 

This case concerns a burglary and arson at the Bethel United Methodist Church in Sugar Creek.  Three boys – of whom Charles was just one – were suspected in the case.  The crime is serious; the legal question isn’t one of seriousness, but of culpability under the law. 

The question isn’t whether someone damaged the church – the question is whether the Walworth County District Attorney acted wrongfully to obtain the particular conviction of a particular boy (rather than, for example, one of the other two).

1.  Isn’t it persuasive that Walworth County Detective Jeffrey Recknagel gave, as the appellate court found, “demonstrably false testimony that Drake [another boy] had been honest with him ‘every time’ “? (Appellate Decision, ¶. 17.)

Here’s a portion of the transcript (from redirect examination, during the State’s exchange with Recknagel):

Q: And as a detective have you had any training on
detecting honesty?
A: Yes, ma’am.
Q: And from your interview with Drake [], did you feel
that he was being honest with you?
A: Absolutely. And I haven’t had just one interview with
Drake, I had more than one interview and I believe that
every time he was being honest with me.

(Appellate Decision, ¶. 17)

Despite his trial testimony, Recknagel later admitted in a post-disposition proceeding that “Drake lied to him at least three times.”  (Appellate Decision, ¶. 9)

2.  Do Walworth County D.A. Necci and Walworth County Sheriff Picknell think that there’s no difference between honesty every time and dishonesty at least three times? 

If so, does that mean that Messrs. Necci and Picknell get to utter at least three lies of their choice, with impunity?

3.  Gazette reporter Frank Schultz writes that “Necci said that he has read the trial transcript, which shows that Recknagel was saying that people always lie to him at first, but after the initial lies, Drake and Robert consistently told the truth.” (Gazette 021615.) How does Necci’s interpretation contradict or negate the testimony the appellate court cited in Appellate Decision, ¶. 17? 

Recknagel plainly and clearly says ‘every time’ in the trial transcript, and later admitted he, Recknagel, knew the other boy did lie to him, at least three times.

What prior testimony of Recknagel could make the actual, verbatim transcript testimony cited in Appellate Decision ¶. 17 any less false? 

4.  Although this is a case involving a juvenile, and subject to concerns of confidentiality, if D.A. Necci thinks other portions of testimony somehow rehabilitate Recknagel, then why doesn’t he seek court permission for publication of the relevant passages he’s supposed to have discussed with Gazette reporter Schultz?  For that matter, why not seek court-authorization and publish the full transcripts, subject to necessary redaction? 

5.  When Necci reportedly tells Schultz that other trial testimony somehow supports Recknagel (Gazette 021615), did reporter Schultz ask to see those transcripts? Did he see them? 

6.  When Necci reportedly tells Schultz that other trial testimony somehow supports Recknagel (Gazette 021615), did reporter Schultz even ask Necci to read aloud to him the passage that Necci says supports Recknagel? Did reporter Schultz just take Necci’s word for it? 

7. In the second published news story (Gazette 021615), D.A. Necci’s quoted as saying he has the “utmost respect” for Recknagel.  This is after the appellate court conclusion that Recknagel gave “demonstrably false testimony.” (Appellate Decision ¶. 17)  If that’s an occasion to have the ‘greatest possible amount, degree, or extent’ of respect, what would Recknagel have to do to give Necci any pause at all?

8.  Gazette reporter Schultz quotes Necci as saying that he, Necci, “just can’t agree with the notion that my prosecutor took advantage of the defense attorney” who is a licensed attorney who should know the law, Necci said.” (Gazette 021615.  As District Attorney, does Necci believe that his office has no independent duty to justice, to offer truthful testimony or sound arguments, apart from a defense attorney’s own statements?  

If Necci doesn’t believe his office has an independent duty of justice, then how does he explain SCR CHAPTER 20, Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys, SCR 20:3.8  Special responsibilities of a prosecutor?

9.  Does D.A. Necci believe that having a law license is justification enough to try a case – that is, once licensed, an attorney is always capable and competent? 

If he does believe that a mere license is enough, then does D.A. Necci believe that there should be no possible claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, as a matter of law?

If he does believe that a mere license is enough, then how does D.A. Necci explain SCR CHAPTER 20, Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys,  SCR 20:1.1  Competence?

Isn’t it clear that every lawyer is ethically obligated to know that a license is not enough, and that “[c]ompetent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation”? 

10.  In the 2.16.15 Gazette story, Necci contends that the appellate court decision is “over the top” and “unnecessarily inflammatory.”  What portions does he think are “over the top” or “unnecessarily inflammatory”?    

Is his objection merely to tone?  Isn’t it clear the decision (see the embedded document, below) rests on a finding of wrongful presentation and testimony, not mere rhetoric? 

By the way, if it’s all a matter of rhetoric, does D.A. Necci mean to imply that the appellate court might have been legitimately inflammatory, but then went too far, and became unnecessarily so?

That would be something like, “Please don’t unnecessarily inflame me, bro.”

11. From the beginning, wasn’t the case against Charles – a juvenile who spent over a year in jail – weak and without direct evidence?  From the uncontradicted observation of the appellate court, “[t]he State did not have any direct evidence that Charles was at the church.”  (Appellate Decision, ¶. 2.)

The DA’s case rested merely on the claims of two alleged, juvenile wrongdoers that a third person was also culpable. 

12.  How strong was the pressure to find someone – anyone – to blame and convict for a church fire?  If this crime had been against someone’s trailer, would the Walworth County D.A. have relied on a case without any direct evidence, and the testimony only of other juveniles?

13.  Does the Walworth County D.A. think that a burglary and fire in one building over another – a shack versus a mansion, for example – necessarily make the case against suspects strong or weaker?

14.  In the first Gazette story, Sheriff Picknell contends that, pending an inquiry into Recknagel’s testimony, he, Picknell would give Recknagel his “full support.”  (Gazette 021315.)  Considering that an appellate court found Recknagel culpable of “demonstrably false testimony,” what does that say about Picknell’s impartiality and neutral decision-making?

Isn’t it closer to the truth to say that Picknell’s response looks like a company-man’s wagon-circling?

If you’re Recknagel, and Picknell is your leader, don’t you and all your colleagues now have free rein to say whatever you want to a court, even under oath?

15.  In the Gazette story of 2.16.15, what message does D.A. Necci send to his assistant prosecutors and law-enforcement witnesses when he backs them publicly and wholeheartedly against even an appellate court’s judicial rebuke for false testimony and impermissible argumentation?

16.  Walworth County developed a national reputation a decade ago for having one the worst district attorney’s offices in America.  See,  A poisoned prosecution at the Center for Public Integrity.  Does Mr. Necci’s office’s handling of this case, and its response to it, provide any reason to think conditions are better now?

17.  Charles C. S., Jr., a fourteen-year-old boy, was confined for over a year, convicted through the actions of men and women found to have offered false testimony and legally-prohibited arguments.  Should that have happened to him?  If his family had been powerful or connected, would it have happened to him?

In any event, should reasonable people be confident in the fairness and thoroughness of work like this? 

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Injustice in Walworth County Wrongly Sends a Fourteen-Year-Old to Jail

On February 11, 2015, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District II, reversed an order of the Walworth County Circuit Court, and ordered a new trial for a minor child, identified as Charles C.S. Jr., aged fourteen at the time of his conviction. See, State v. Charles C. S., Jr., No. 2014AP1045, unpublished (Wis. Ct. App. Feb. 11, 2015), available at https://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.html?content=html&seqNo=134396.

Charles spent a year incarcerated after an unjust conviction in which the appeals court found that

(1) a Walworth County Sheriff’s Department investigator gave “demonstrably false testimony” under oath about conversations with a witness,
(2) a Walworth County Asst. District Attorney introduced clearly inadmissible evidence and argued evidence that was not true, and
(3) Charles’s defense counsel was deficient for failing to object to the false testimony or legally-prohibited prosecution arguments.

At the end of this post, I have embedded the written decision of the appellate court, as dated and filed on 2.11.15.

I’ll write more about this matter tomorrow, with a series of questions for those involved.

Today, I’m posting the appellate court decision and order. There are two reasons for posting the ruling, mostly on its own, today.

First, the court’s reasoning and ruling speak for themselves.

Second, in our area, we seldom see original documents like this published, as the pressure against the local press for displaying them causes those papers to shy away.

Americans are, and should always be, of stronger stuff than that.

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The Truth About the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

There are those times when small-government conservatives, Democrats, and libertarians agree. Acknowledging the misconduct, failures, and cronyism of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation would be one of those occasions. It is, among other things, the state’s biggest white-collar welfare scheme, both mismanaged and mendacious.

Here’s the effectual motto of the WEDC:

Corruption, Cronyism, and Incompetence (at Taxpayer Expense)

When officials of the city and university boast of these grants, that’s what they’re peddling.

Job Creation Failure
• 46% of companies receiving incentives with a job creation goal failed to report any progress.
• Less than 25% of companies awarded incentives with job creation goals reached at least half of their goal.
• Only 12% of companies reached the targeted number of jobs.

Job Retention Mediocre
• 37% of companies receiving incentives with a job retention goal have no reported progress toward that goal.
• 62% of companies awarded incentives with job retention goals have reached at least half of their goal.
• 51% reached their targeted number of jobs. But, some of these companies laid off workers either before or after receiving incentives.

Capital Investment Sluggish
• 44% of companies receiving incentives including a capital investment goal have no reported progress toward that goal.
• 42% of companies awarded incentives with capital investment goals reached at least half of their goal.
• 25% reached their targeted level of investment.

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The Great Innovator

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A small, sad truth that I ran across recently: “Fortune named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.”

That’s the one-and-only Enron, the now-bankrupt energy company whose name lives on as a reminder of lies, misconduct, and accounting fraud. 

All those billions lost, those thousands left unemployed, those many more swindled.  Reproach not, America, as Fortune magazine was sure Enron was a great company.

In each one of those six years during which Fortune praised Enron (while the corporation was lying), the few critics of that business seemed unpersuasive or irrational. 

Enron’s problem, of course, was that time didn’t stop despite six years’ worth of praise; there were subsequent years, in which executives could no longer conceal bad ideas and bad acts.

Critics didn’t become right about Enron in later years – they were always right.  It simply took time for others to see Enron’s ongoing lies and fraud. 

Frauds of Enron’s sort are impossible to conceal perpetually. 

They collapse on themselves, after which dogged investigators are in the best position expose the particulars of the swindle.