Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/15/2019: Starring Two Of My Favorite Unethical Websites!


Oh, great: started this post at 7 am, hell broke lose at ProEthics, and now it’s after noon. Well, the hell with it: I’m not going back to change the headline or the intro, and I like Lenny’s version of the Stars and Stripes at any time of day.

So there.

1. Unprofessional and dangerous stuff from  Above the Law….as usual. The legal gossip and snark online tabloid is run and written by lawyers who are not practicing law, so they feel free to engage in conduct that lawyers are forbidden from engaging in, like misrepresentation.  Lately the cyber rag has been cyber-ragging on Jones Day, a long-time, distinguished D.C. mega firm. Why are they doing that? Come on, it should be obvious.

ATL takes the position—and it has company— that Jones Day is eeeevil and must be shunned because it represents the Trump campaign. Hence you get headlines like “IF YOU HAD TO GUESS WHICH FIRM WOULD DO THIS:New allegations claim Jones Day lightened the skin and narrowed the nose on the picture of one of their lawyers.”

See, ATL thinks you’d guess that because Jones Day must be a racist law firm to represent that racist President’s campaign (See Big Lie #4). The effort to try to punish any organization, institution or individual who assists the President in any way has been one of the most unethical and undemocratic tactics of “the resistance”—it’s so hard to pick THE most—but this version, impugning lawyers based on whom or what they represent, is especially egregious coming from lawyers, even disgraceful, bigoted ones like Ellie Mystal, the author of the article in question.

We keep encountering this dangerous attack on the bedrock principle of law, that lawyers do not endorse individuals or organizations, or even causes, by representing them. Lawyers supply access to crucial rights under our legal system, and how a client chooses to exercise those rights is irrelevant to the lawyer’s duty, as long as the client’s purpose is arguably legal. Thus we have this among the profession’s ethics rules:

1.2 (b) A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.

Members of the public who do not comprehend that principle, and most don’t, do so at their own risk, and help spawn fiascos like Harvard punishing a law professor for providing the criminal defense for Harvey Weinstein that the 6th Amendment requires, in order to ensure his Due Process rights not to be found guilty without a trial, something that the progressives increasingly seem to find inconvenient. It is the duty of lawyers to explain to non-lawyers why 1.2 (b) protects all of us, and not to smear lawyers for doing what lawyers are supposed to do….represent people no matter how unpopular they may be.

2. Oh! I almost forgot! Here is one of the Jones Day outrages that Ellie is pushing:

And now for the most shocking allegation in the complaint, at least in my humble opinion: the complaint alleges that when Sheketoff had her picture taken for the firm’s website, the final image was edited to lighten her skin and narrow her nose. As the complaint notes, “[t]he apparent purpose of the alterations was to make was to make Julia appear more Caucasian and (in the opinion of the editor) more attractive.” The complaint says they edit the pictures of women at the firm on the reg … to make them prettier, while men are spared the photoshop treatment. In a perfect illustration on the way intersectionality works, in the case of this bi-racial woman, “prettier” = more white.

Oh, for the the untouched photo of the lawyer in question with the edited version on the firm website:

Kidding! Here’s the actual edit…

Wow. How racist can you get!

The presumption that this minimal photoshopping is based in racism and sexism is confirmation bias squared. If someone wants to argue that lawyers should give consent before their photos are altered, fine. If the argument is that the Jones Day edits are incompetent, I’ll endorse that: the version on the right looks like a lighting error, but to my eye it neither makes the lawyer look more attractive nor more white. As a lawyer for the aggrieved ex-firm member, though, I would have advised the woman that this contrived complaint puts the rest of her claims in jeopardy, by raising doubts about her credibility.

3. Nah, Politifact isn’t a partisan hack fact-check service! Politifact, in a jaw-droppingly dishonest “fact-check” of Kamala Harris’s and Elizabeth Warren’s deliberately continuing the disproved narrative that Officer Wilson murdered Mike Brown and did so out of racial malice, refused to declare the statements lies.

As with so many Snopes posts of recent years, this is a smoking gun: Politifact is signalling to anyone with a basic knowledge of history and law that it can not be trusted….not that this wasn’t obvious anyway.

Maybe if you just read these excerpts, your head won’t explode like mine did from reading the whole unforgivable post:

“There is no question that Wilson killed Brown, and there’s strong evidence that it was not accidental.”

Nobody, including Wilson, ever claimed the shooting was accidental. It was self-defense, but Wilson intended to shoot the huge man charging him, and shot until he was down, as the officer was trained to do. Politifact is deceptively changing the legal issue.

“In discussing the case with legal experts, however, we found broad consensus that “murder” was the wrong word to use — a legal point likely familiar to Harris, a longtime prosecutor, and Warren, a law professor.”


“Because the significance of Harris’ and Warrens’ use of the word is open to some dispute, we won’t be rating their tweets on the Truth-O-Meter.”

By “some dispute,” this den of hackery means that they beat the bushes to find activist academics who made specious claims like Joy Leopold, an assistant professor of media communications at Webster University in Missouri. Politifact quotes her as saying,  “Focusing on the language opens up the opportunity for some to discredit the conversation about police brutality and the criminal justice system in general.”

But Warren, Harris and the rest weren’t just talking about “police brutality and the criminal justice system in general.” They were using the Mike Brown case as an example of police brutality and racism, and it isn’t an example, meaning that claiming otherwise as a fact is a lie.

29 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/15/2019: Starring Two Of My Favorite Unethical Websites!

  1. “Because the significance of Harris’ and Warrens’ use of the word is open to some dispute, we won’t be rating their tweets on the Truth-O-Meter.”

    If they applied that standard to all their ratings, as opposed to literally only this one in the history of ever, they would never rate anything. I mean, as snarky as that may seem, the grey areas of “partly true”, “half true’ and “mostly true” exist specifically to deal with situations where people dispute parts of the ratings. Every rating Politifact ever put out without a green or red light under it per se highlight the dishonesty of that quote.

    • This comment by Texas Christian University communications teacher/professor Jean Brown is truly horrifying:

      “I don’t know if the legalistic distinction intensifies the anger, but it does feel like an attempt to shift the debate from a discussion about the killing of black and brown people by police,” said Jean Brown, who teaches communications at Texas Christian University and specializes in media representations of African Americans. “This is unfortunate, because rather than discussing the need for de-escalation tactics and relations between police and communities of color, this has become a conversation about legal terms. Quite frankly, it’s a distraction that doesn’t help the discussion.”

      How do you de-escalate a 300 pound man (and not a gentle giant) charging you after trying to take your gun while you sat in the police car? Do you say, “Uh . . . Freeze. Please. Ah, c’mon, stop. Don’t make me pull my teeny-tiny gunny-po out”? Is there some code word communities of color use to de-escalate situations? If so, I would like the good professor/teacher to publish the list of codes so we can learn them. I am afraid that, without that list, more unfortunate gentle giants of color might not get the messages from police officers and needlessly die as a result of poor communication and comprehension skills.


  2. It is my professional opinion that the photo was likely not “photoshopped” at all. I downloaded the photo and inspected both sides down to individual pixels and what I found is that the right side photo had been cropped slightly to remove a little of the green space over the top of her head and the photo was placed in the same box making the photo stretch top-to-bottom slightly, no one squeezed her nose to make it look thinner the photo was unknowingly stretched top-to-bottom which made her look ever so slightly taller. The evaluation of the width of the nose is that they are EXACTLY the same width in both photos! Also after they put the cropped photo in the slightly taller box it was likely more obvious that the contrast was incorrect. An auto contrast filter was used on the photo because her jacket was too dark and did not show the correct color and the buttons were nearly invisible. In fact the photo on the right is likely much more lifelike because the color and brightness are more natural.

    • Good post.

      Professional photography is hard (my wife is an amateur photographer and will talk about good lighting and exposure for hours given the chance). One of the reasons most good photographers do their own editing is that it is hard, and unless you were at the shoot it’s nearly damn impossible to make it match the actual conditions, colors, contrast, etc. Also, did you know you can outsource editing for cheap to tech sweatshops somewhere in Asia? With the expected results and very likely ending up with the photos in some giant stock database of questionable legality.

      In any case, while I don’t think the edited version is terrible, I would not hire that photographer again, as the final result looks too bright in my opinion.

    • No. Maybe not photoshopped, but edited.
      Look at the hair.

      The hair around the left side of her neck. It has been cleaned up and the streak that was edited out appears whiter (not that that would be an intentional racist act.

      And, the hair off the right side of her head. Space has been filled in.

      Definitely edited to some extent.


      • You’re right, just a bit of band-aid tool to the hair to make it look less a mess. So very racist.

        (I’ve used it a thousand times to images of, shhhh, white people.)

      • Every organization that has ever posted my photo and those of other staff have engaged in that kind of minor fiddling, because there’s nothing unethical about it unless one is trying to create a relevant deception, like misrepresenting an individual’s age and experience.

        • “Minor fiddling”? (skeptical cross-ways glance)

          I don’t think there was a problem with what was done; I was just responding to Steve Witherspoon, who said he did not see any “photoshopping.”

          But, his general explanations make sense. It definitely appears lighter, revealing more detail on the jacket and probably getting it closer to the right color.

          Then the question becomes: is it racist to make the jacket look less black?


      • Good catch Jut, I wasn’t looking for that. I started at the nose and worked my way out to find out why there were edits. That hair on the neck edit, which I completely missed, is got to be one of the most amateur clone stamp edits I think I’ve ever seen. Still overall, what they were complaining about is completely bogus.

    • It looks like a gamma correction to me when it comes to the slightly lighter effect.

      Very impressed by your evaluation of the aspect ratio. it’s easy to do that when you crop a picture if you don’t tell the picture editor to maintain it.

  3. This looks like a crop and Lightbox job to me. They cropped the background to make her more prominent, not less. They Lightboxed her (and probably everyone else photographed) as so many professional studios do to add dimensionality and warmth. Look at the two. The original looks much flatter and less dimensionally real.

    But let’s be honest, women are much more concerned with appearance than men. My wife and I were very recently photographed with a group and her first reaction was to request I photoshop the picture to make her arms look slightly thinner. Jeez.

  4. I wonder if those at Politifact would get mad if I made t-shirts that said.

    We decide truth

    I guess if I wrote Truman murdered tens of thousands of People of Color with atomic weapons that too would be subject to dispute over words.

  5. 3. Kamala Harris is an absolute nitwit:

    A career criminal is blasting away at cops serving a narcotics warrant and she’s lecturing on gun control. “When will what stop, Kamala?” You’re going to stop criminals from getting and using guns by making them illegal? But wait, aren’t we incarcerating too many drug dealers already? I’m confused.

      • Right. I really think Kamala is going to flame out sooner rather than later. She is simply too dim a bulb. She sits for a pretty darned attractive picture and appears to have a solid resume, but whenever she opens her mouth, she just sounds as if she’s reciting a talking point her inept staff have cobbled together. She seems to have no critical thinking skills and appears unable to hear what she’s saying sounds like. She’s kind of tone deaf. I think she’s just a pol that has ridden on Willie Brown’s, er, coat tails for her entire career. She makes HRC appear to be a savvy campaigner. If the Dems nominate her, she’ll get creamed, mostly from shooting her foot off her own self. After she’s taken it out of her mouth. Caramba.

        • Great analysis. I have thought the same thing. Anne Althouse thinks that the mainstream media want her as the chosen candidate to dispatch the dastardly interloper from the Oval Office. Perhaps they think Trump won’t go after her because he would be afraid of attacking a woman of color. Who knows. Wolf Blitzer embarrassed himself (as if that’s possible) with that idiotic interview yesterday. How he could tie Philly Shooter Boy in with the broader picture/issue of white supremacy and mass shootings by white supremacists is a mystery to me.


    • Oh, man, Other Bill. You must get in line. Sen. Harris said that if Congress does not present her with a bill within 100 days of taking office, she will take action by executive order. Part of that will be to hold gun sellers responsible for selling guns to people who commit crimes, pointing to this Philly instance as evidence of the system’s failure. Interesting. From what I read, the Philly shooter guy (clearly not too versed in policespeak because police continue to refuse to adopt Prof. Brown’s communications programs) did not understand that he, a convicted felon of at least one gun-related crime, should not have bought that gun from “Felons-R-Us Guns and More”. Silly man. Sillier store. They should have their AFT licenses revoked and pay a huge fine. That will solve that problem. And for that bozo Wolf Blitzer to sit there and not challenge that comment is inexcusable.


  6. 1. You missed the fine print of the ABA rule:

    1.2 (b) A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities. [This rule shall not be construed to apply to Donald Trump, his appointees, campaign, family, businesses, or supporters.]

    Isn’t Mystal the guy who said that Trump supporters should be “destroyed,” not “negotiated with?” Nice ethics, dude.

    2. I can’t even…

    3. The irrepressible Brit Hume body-slammed Polifact over this, and rightfully so.

    When democrats and left-leaning organizations dissemble, the media looks the other way.

    Don’t try it if you’re Fox News or the Washington Times, though.

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