Ethics Warm-Up, 2/28/2019: No Birthday For Frederick Edition [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

Back last night from a whirlwind day of ethics in NYC, and leaving today on an auto safari to Washington County, Pennsylvania, where I will address bar members to kick off their annual meeting. See Facebook? THEY don’t think I should be muzzled! Meanwhile, I will be celebrating the non-birthday of the pirate apprentice hero of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” who was, you recall, indentured to a pirate band until his 2ist birthday, and since he was born on Leap Year, legally committed to a life of crime until he was 84 years old.

1. Nah, Democrats don’t automatically default to race-baiting… Well this was certainly ugly and embarrassing. During  House Oversight Committee hearing with Michael Cohen, the fallen Trump fixer accused the President of making racist comments about African Americans. Let me interject here that this was obvious pandering to Cohen’s new pals in “the resistance.” It would have no probative value as hearsay even if the speaker wasn’t testifying with his pants on fire. Thus there was no need for Rep. Mark Meadows to try to rebut Cohen by asking Housing and Urban Development staffer Lynne Patton, who is black, to silently stand before the committee to (somehow) disprove that Trump is racist. Meadows (R-N.C.) said that Patton had told him there was “no way that she would work for an individual who was racist.”

Then Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) characterized Meadow’s stunt as racist, saying, “Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” Tlaib said. “And it is insensitive that some would even say — the fact that some would actually use a prop, a black woman in this chamber in this committee is alone racist in itself.”

“You’re one of my best friends,” Cummings said to Meadows. “And I can see and I feel your pain, and I don’t think Ms. Tlaib intended to cause you that, that kind of pain.”

Tlaib then apologized to Meadows, saying it wasn’t her intention to call him racist. She just said that what he did was racist.

Oh.

2. Stop making me defend the Northam family! Gotcha! Just as Virginia Governor Northam was beginning to extract himself from the embarrassment of having to confess to being a Michael Jackson imitator via shoe polish, an enterprising black legislative page decided to nab her 15 minutes of fame by accusing Mrs. Northam of the dreaded “racial insensitivity.” It appears that Virginia’s First Lady, while narrating a tour of the Governor, triggered her my alluding to slavery.

“When in the cottage house you were speaking about cotton, and how the slaves had to pick it,” the teenaged page’s letter says. “There are only three Black pages in the page class of 2019. When you went to hand out the cotton you handed it straight to another African American page, then you proceeded to hand it to me, I did not take it. The other page took the cotton, but it made her very uncomfortable. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, because you gave it to some other pages. But you followed this up by asking: ‘Can you imagine being an enslaved person, and having to pick this all day?'”

“The comments and just the way you carried yourself during this time was beyond inappropriate, especially considering recent events with the Governor. From the time we walked into the mansion to the time in the cottage house, I did not receive a welcoming vibe.”

Ah. Now we see why Bernie Sanders was attacked by Democrats for saying that race shouldn’t matter. Mrs. Northam treated the black pages like she treated the rest, and that made this page feel unwelcome. And if Virginia’s First Lady had only given the cotton to the white pages? That would have been insensitive too, I’m sure.

To her credit, the Governor’s wife has not apologized. She responded that she has given “the same educational tour to Executive Mansion visitors over the last few months and used a variety of artifacts and agricultural crops.” Her intent is to illustrate “a painful period of Virginia history.” She said that she began last year to tell the “full story” of the governor’s mansion, including the Historic Kitchen. “I believe it does a disservice to Virginians to omit the stories of the enslaved people who lived and worked there — that’s why I have been engaged in an effort to thoughtfully and honestly share this important story since I arrived in Richmond. I regret that I have upset anyone,” she wrote, but she reiterated that she is  still committed to chronicling the history of the Historic Kitchen, and “will continue to engage historians and experts on the best way to do so in the future.”

Now, if she had given the tour made up as Janet Jackson, that would have been inappropriate.

3. My own private boycott: I will not buy products that continue the coarsening of our culture by employing juvenile references to gutter language to sell their wares. Now Mr. Clean joins the list, with the ad for “his” Clean Freak Mist. Today’s TV ad screamed out “Big freaking news!” As with Booking.com’s evocation of “fucking” its ads, this is neither clever nor novel. Shrug it off if you like. Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla)

To be fair, he’s not quite as unethical a lawyer as Michael Cohen, but then Cohen isn’t in Congress…

Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…

Nice.

Gaetz sent this tweet before Cohen testified before Congress. It is witness intimidation. It is also stupid witness intimidation. Among other things, it gave Speaker Pelosi an opportunity to appear fair and responsible, by stating,

Goetz doubled down on his ham-handed “nice little family you got there; too bad if something were to happen to it…” threat by denying that he was witness tampering, telling a reporter that he was “witness testing.

This jerk is a Florida lawyer, and his bar is now investigating whether he breached the ethics rules by threatening a witness. Of course he did, and he did it on Twitter, which makes it the dumbest example of witness tampering in history.

Observations On Michael Cohen

Ew.

  • Michael Cohen was officially disbarred from the practice of law this week, though that result was so inevitable that it barely qualifies as news. He pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress and evasion of income tax liability, and was sentenced in December to three years in prison and to pay $1 million dollars in restitution. Tha alone made disbarment unavoidable, but he would have been disbarred without his crimes because he taped his client without his client’s consent and revealed attorney-client confidences to try to mitigate the consequences of his own conduct.

His disbarment is backdated to November when he pleaded guilty. It should have been backdated to the day he was admitted to the bar.

  • Conservative critics are absolutely correct that for Congressional Democrats hold a hearing designed for no other purpose than to slime the President while he was engaged in crucial negotiations abroad shows where their priorities lie, and they are not with the United States of America. They want the President to fail in all things (which seems unnecessary, since they will represent his successes as failures anyway), and to undermine his ability to do his job.

There was no valid reason why Cohen’s useless testimony could not have been postponed until after the President’s summit with North Korea’s Kim. Continue reading

Open Forum!

Alas, I have an early flight to New York this morning for some BigLaw legal ethics training, so I’m turning the blog over to the ethical readership, where I know it will be well cared for.

Write about whatever you like, as long as what you like involves ethics or leadership, and is devoid of nasty things and political rants. Also remember that if there are mosre than a single link in your post, it would be read until I get it out of moderation, and I can’t guarantee when that will be today.

Make Ethics Alarms proud!

Comment Of The Day: “A Visit To “The Ethicist””

A disturbing Child Protective Services tale from slickwilly, and a Comment of the Day, on the post, A Visit To “The Ethicist”…

When my kids were little, we learned of the stories from friend and relatives where a CPS worker with a vendetta (or being paid off) would take someone’s kids and subject the parents to 7 kinds of hell just using the process against them.

A friend crossed (innocently enough) a CPS worker, who threatened to ‘get even.’ Several days later she was visited by stormtroopers who forcibly removed her toddler aged child and shipped him to Arizona, to a father who did not want him. This meant that the Arizona foster care system was where the child landed. Think dealing with ONE CPS agency is hard? Try two at once! It too all of the mother’s savings, and over a year, to get her child back. She did not get to even SEE her child for 3 months: a huge part of that child’s life. Terrible.

My relatives had a similar experience, after their daughter’s ugly divorce (where the father, who did not want the 3 year old boy, nevertheless made a mess by threatening to take away custody.) When the father sicc’d a friend from CPS on her, alleging abuse, the family sprang into action. A day after the initial call from the corrupt CPS worker, her apartment was raided to remove the child and document the alleged signs of abuse. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/25/ 2019: “Martina Navratilova A Gender Bigot? …WHAT’S HAPPENING????” (Item #3)?

The evidence strongly suggests that’s correct. Once set in the womb by neural development in the third trimester, the resultant development paths are tightly constrained, regardless of post natal hormonal environment. Of course, as physiological characteristics such as genitalia are formed earlier, gender and sex may be discordant.

“There are over 6,000 genetic differences, affecting everything from the skin to the brain.”

But a bone marrow transplant changes that. Or can do.
See Bone marrow-derived cells from male donors can compose endometrial glands in female transplant recipients by Ikoma et al in Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Dec;201(6):608.e1-8 & Transplanted human bone marrow cells generate new brain cells by Crain BJ, Tran SD, Mezey E. in J Neurol Sci. 2005 Jun 15;233(1-2):121-3 :

It’s really only important when measuring statistical sensitivity to various chemicals. 46,XY mothers exist. 46,XX fathers exist (though far fewer than 46,XY mothers, apparently). And of course 47,XXY people exist.

“The very “best” options are still merely cosmetic.”

A matter of opinion. Womb transplants have proven to be very successful for some Intersex women. It’s only a matter of time before they’re made available to Trans women with similar physiology. And in order to justify that “cosmetic” opinion, you’d have to justify why you’re picking one set of physiological characteristics – say height – over another, say bust size. Or vice versa.

I think you’re right in your opinion, but I have no idea how I’d go about justifying that, and could easily be persuaded to change my mind.

It’s anything but simple. Sorry.

Ethics Quiz: Is This Fair?

Just kidding!

Of course it’s not fair.

In fact, it’s ridiculous. So the real question is, why does anyone, activist or otherwise, argue with a straight face that it is fair?

That photo is from Oct. 13, 2018, when  transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon of Canada won the  UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championships in Carson, California. The other cyclist is Carolien Van Herrikhuyzen of the Netherlands. The other competitors were similar in stature and build to Carolien. She was born female, and unlike McKinnon, grew up female.

It makes a difference.

In fact, as Martina Navratilova wrote in a February 17 op-ed for The Sunday Times of London, “It’s insane and it’s cheating.” Well, it’s not cheating if a sport says it isn’t. It is, however, insanely unfair, and unarguably unfair. Advocates, like McKinnon herself, an educated trans woman, actually try to deny these conclusions that are as plain as that photograph. In her debate with the legendary tennis star, she argued,

 “She imagines a nonexistent cisgender man who will pretend to be a trans woman, convince a psychologist and a physician to prescribe hormone therapy, undertake the process for legal changer recognition, then wait the minimum 12 months of testosterone suppression required by the current IOC rules, compete, and then change his mind and ‘go back to making babies’? No such thing will ever happen. This is an irrational fear of trans women.”

But, significantly, she does not argue against Navratilova’s central assertion (which she garbled badly by making the lame slippery slope argument), which is that it’s unfair to allow women who have matured as men to compete against women who haven’t. Obviously. Look at the picture.

I’ve discussed the ethics of allowing trans athletes to compete against non-trans competitors, and frankly, the only interesting part of the topic is that fear of trans activists and being accused of bigotry has succeeded in so many locales in bullying officials into allowing it. It is unfair. It is obviously unfair. It destroys the integrity of the competition; it makes women’s sports a joke. Why do they allow it? Well, this is a small but revealing example of how ideology can strangle common sense and reality when those committed to the ideology find facts and ethics hostile to the world as they would like it to be. The result is that people, with nothing but good intentions, convince themselves that wrong is right and that what doesn’t work, does. Continue reading