Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Butt-Head


Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) achieved the rare and near impossible yesterday: he issued an unethical but presumably sincere apology.

You see, prior to his issuing a statement apologizing to Michelle Obama for saying that she had a big butt, I

a) …didn’t know that Sensenbrenner had said this, because I, like most people, couldn’t care less what Sensenbrenner says.

b)…never had given a moment’s thought to the size of the First Lady’s butt, just as I never thought about Laura Bush’s butt, Ladybird Johnson’s butt, or Pat Nixon’s butt. I don’t think about First Lady butts. Frankly, I worry about anyone who does.

Apparently on two occasions Sensenbrenner regaled small groups with unflattering comments about Michelle’s rear end, on the ridiculous theory that her campaign against child obesity was somehow hypocritical because the First Lady isn’t built like Zooey Deschanel. You see, this is why most people pay no attention to Sensenbrenner: he says things this dumb with some regularity. What does Mrs. Obama’s figure have to do with the health risks of child obesity? Even if she looked like Newt Gingrich in drag, how would that make her campaign hypocritical? Overweight people can’t express concern for the health risks of being overweight? Overweight people know the health risks better than anyone; the fitness advocates that you want to slug are the natural ectomorphs who can eat all day and not gain an inch. So the Congressman’s wisecracks were 1) rude, 2) mean, 3) boorish, 4) uncivil,  and 5) stupid. Also 6), untrue, because there is nothing wrong with Michelle’s butt, now that I’ve done some research. Great—now I’m thinking about First Lady butts. Continue reading

Rewarding Wrongdoers to Corrupt Us All

It would be wonderful if Steven Slater would go before the cameras and say,

“I want to apologize to Jet Blue and its passengers for my conduct. I was frustrated and emotionally over-wrought, and I wrongly endangered the air travelers, betrayed by co-workers, and embarrassed my employers. I am not a folk hero or a role model. I am ordinary human being who lost control of his emotions, and behaved badly. I am sorry. If my meltdown contributes to a national dialogue that reminds people that we need to be civil patient and kind to one another, then at least something productive will have come out of an incident that I sincerely regret.”

That’s not going to happen. Continue reading

The Ethics of Commemorating Hiroshima

I missed it, but apparently the son of the commander of the Enola Gay told Fox News that for America to send a diplomatic delegation to Japan to memorialize the 65th Anniversary of the bombing was a de facto apology that for a necessary wartime action.

Over at Popehat, Patrick (some day I’ll figure out how to get these guys’ last names) offers an articulate and precise explanation of why James Tibbets is wrong, historically and ethically. An excerpt: Continue reading

Lincoln Chafee’s Unethical Attack on Curt Schilling

Former G.O.P. Senator Lincoln Chafee, now running for Governor of Rhode Island as an Independent, did a despicable thing yesterday, and almost certainly has no idea why it was so wrong.

During a radio interview, Chafee criticized a deal state economic development officials approved with 38 Studios, a game development company owned by former Red Sox pitcher and World Series hero Curt Schilling. Chafee, who is not alone in his criticism of the loan, argued that too much taxpayer money is being entrusted to a company that has no proven track record. That’s a legitimate point. But to hammer home his point, Chafee decided to attack the character, career accomplishments, reputation and integrity of Schilling, a man he has never met…based on nothing at all. Continue reading

Some Ethics Catch-Up Due on Climate Change

It is clear that the Obama Administration, if only to bolster the fading support of its most Left-ward constituency, is going to try a full-court press to get some form of carbon tax or “cap and trade” bill. These were once referred to as “climate change” measures, but since polls are showing that the American public’s belief in Al Gore’s jeremiad is waning fast, now these are “prevent more oil spills like the one going on now” bills. Obama, much to the global warming zealots’ dismay, only snuck in one little “climate” in his Oval Office speech, and that was without “change.”

This is all just politics, but the fact is that the American public has some straight talk coming, and it doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the horizon, or even the Deep Horizon. In the past year, the Climate Change Express has pretty much jumped the rails, with the collapse of international summit; the East Anglia “Climategate” revelations that supposedly objective scientists were blocking dissenting conclusions and hiding inconsistencies,  the uncovering of evidence of unprofessional  practices at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),  and some embarrassing pronouncements and predictions that appeared to be off by hundreds of years or so, or wrong entirely.

Despite all this, the U.S. media has been caught in a time warp, with no major news organizations altering their previous official conviction that the fact of catastrophic climate change and the main cause of it–human activity—are “settled science,” even though this is just plain false. Continue reading

Apology: How I Became an April Fool and an Ethics Dunce

I’m not going to spin this. My conviction that the web hoax engineered by trial lawyer/blogger Eric Turkewitz violated the legal ethics rules was the product of a toxic mix of factors, prime among then being that I didn’t review my own files. When I finally, after nearly two days of answering complaints when I should have been hitting the books, checked the Rules of an ethics bellweather state that I often work in but had not for longer than usual, I read this:

RULE 8.4 Misconduct

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

…(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation which reflects adversely on the
lawyer’s fitness to practice law;

This is an unusual version of Model Rule 8.4; indeed, the only other state to have adopted it (I think—I am no longer sure of much) is Wyoming. Yet it is a very useful variation of the Model Rule, because it eliminates all ambiguity about whether “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” is meant to be as sweeping as it sounds. This formulation makes it clear that non-legal practice violations are covered, but that they have to reflect adversely on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law to qualify.

I had been wallowing in obscure clues from other jurisdictions–Tennessee, for example, which has the ABA wording but an odd Comment that begins…

[4] Paragraph (c) prohibits lawyers from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. Such conduct reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law…

This could be taken to mean that all such conduct reflects adversely on fitness. The problem is, I don’t believe that, and I don’t believe that Tennessee means that.

The 8.4 version that I found was from…Virginia. Where I live. Where I have done more ethics CLE than anywhere else, beginning before the state even adopted the Model Rules format. Seeing this, two conclusions were unavoidable:

1. This is the predominant way jurisdictions think about 8.4. No state has rejected Virginia’s approach, and several have referenced it in Legal Ethics Opinions on the topic of what kind of non-legal practice-related conduct is covered by the Rules—-not subject to discipline, as I was arguing the past two days, but covered at all. The D.C. Bar has such an LEO, number 323, from 2004. I had a copy on file. The District of Columbia, where I’m a member of the bar.

2. I had made a big and inexcusable mistake, and compounded it by acting like the King of the Jerkwads. Continue reading

To Ethics Alarms Readers: Apology Time

Boy, there were a lot of typos today! I think I fixed them all, but I want to apologize to the many readers of the original versions. The fact that I was writing posts while running around like a headless chicken was my problem, not yours, and my duties of competence and diligence, not to mention professionalism. required me to either meet proper editing standards or not post at all.

I thank you all for your tolerance, and will strive to do better, because you deserve better.

It would sure help if I could learn to proofread.

Don’t Apologize for the Truth, Mr. President.

For the second time in less than  a year, Nevada officials are annoyed with President Obama for a remark he has made about Las Vegas–essentially the same remark, in fact, he delivered before.

Speaking in New Hampshire about budget austerity, the President said, “You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices. It’s time your government did the same.”

The mayor of Las Vegas is demanding an apology. True, in tough economic times, the President should refrain from specifically discouraging tourism to a particular location. Continue reading

Unethical Website of the Month:charlesphillipsandyavaughniewilkins.com

It seems to be down now, but the odor lingers on. And there is the matter of the billboards..

Let us stipulate, without really knowing, that YaVaughnie Wilkins has legitimate grievances with  her married former boyfriend, the distinguished Charles E. Phillips, who is president of tech conglomerate Oracle and a member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Let us assume that she was legitimately heartbroken and angry when he returned to his wife recently after engaging in an eight year affair with Wilkens, and that YaVaughnie (YaVaughnie??)  was taken by surprise, since Phillips’ wife had filed for divorce two years ago.

Never mind. Creating and publicizing a website, http://www.charlesphillipsandyavaughniewilkins.com, designed to expose the intimate details of a dead affair is indefensible. Setting out to publically humiliate Phillips is revenge, pure and simple. Revenge is unethical. Always. Continue reading