Rueful Observations On The Latest Development In Virginia Governor Northam’s Blackface Scandal

Well, let’s see: my college has embarrassed me, my law school’s professors continue to make me wish I had earned a law degree by drawing “Skippy” from the cover of a matchbook, black students were apparently insulted in my home city’s famous art museum, my baseball team allowed itself to be split by “the resistance,” and my adopted state of Virginia has the most ridiculous governor since Rod Blagojevich was making Illinois residents consider moving to Tierra del Fuego.

To refresh your memory regarding  the Ralph Northam Ethics Trainwreck, since it’s been stashed in the news media memory hole for a while: the same week  that he appeared to casually explain how post-birth abortion works while showing all the passion of someone describing how to replace a carburetor, Northam’s med school yearbook surfaced showing the governor-to-be either dressed as a Klansman or wearing blackface, unless you subscribe to the theory that the photo of two men in such get-ups was just randomly planted on Northam’s page.

In a dizzying sequence, the Governor 1) apologized for the photo and wearing blackface in it, apparently admitting that it was him 2) said that he didn’t think either figure was him, and he could “tell by looking at it” 3) admitted that he did once wear blackface to look like Michael Jackson in a talent show 4) said that he had to have someone explain to him recently that blackface was considered offensive.

The short version: he’s a babbling, untrustworthy idiot. Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Flashback Post Of The Week: “Ethics Quiz: The Sensitive Cop’s Facebook Confession”

[A  while ago I wrote that I might periodically re-post one of the more than 2000 Ethics Alarms essays that have appeared here since 2009. The criteria? Let’s see:

  • A post that I have completely forgotten about, and don’t remember even after I’ve read it again.
  • A post that may be interesting to consider in light of subsequent developments since it was written (in this case,  social media posts triggering workplace discipline, and police-community relations)
  • A lively discussion in the comments.

I think this post, based on a find by now-retired Ethics Alarms super-scout Fred, qualifies on all counts. It’s from May of 2014.]

“If there was any time I despised wearing a police uniform, it was yesterday at the Capitol during the water rally. A girl I know who frequents the Capitol for environmental concerns looked at me and wanted me to participate with her in the event. I told her I have to remain unbiased while on duty at these events. She responded by saying, ‘You’re a person, aren’t you?’ That comment went straight through my heart!”

Thus did Douglas Day, a police officer at the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, confess to Facebook friends his mixed emotions while doing his duty.

For this he was fired.

The day Day wrote his Facebook post, Capitol Police Lt. T.M. Johnson told him  that the post “shows no respect to the department, the uniform or the law enforcement community which he represents.”  About a week later, Sgt. A.E. Lanham Jr. wrote to Day that he “found the entire [Facebook] posting to be extremely offensive and shocking … This is just another episode of many incidents which show his bad attitude and lack of enthusiasm toward police work in general and toward our department in particular.”

Day was thunderstruck. “If they believed there was some sort of a violation I made, then why wasn’t it addressed? They never brought me in and never said anything to me,” Day said. “In 2½ years working there, I had no disciplinary action taken against me at any time. Nothing was ever written up and I received no reprimands.” So much for the “many incidents.” Continue reading

A Smoking Flip-Flop: Here Is Why Larry Tribe Cannot Be Regarded As An Objective Legal Authority Any More

…well, other than the fact that his recent tweets indicate that the 77-year-old  prof is no longer playing with a full deck…*

I had a back-and-forth with a smart non-lawyer who is suffering from Trump Derangement, and who cited the opinions of Professor Tribe to counter Alan Dershowitz’s critique of the Mueller Report. He didn’t like my assertion that Tribe has proven himself to be a partisan hack of late, willing to espouse whatever public opinion the Left and “the resistance” will find useful.

Ed Whelan, the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, found this example of a cynical Tribe flip-flop, worthy of the gymnasts above, that shows what I mean:

 Back in early March 2016, a few weeks after Justice Scalia’s death created a vacancy on the Supreme Court, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe was perhaps the most prominent of some 350 law professors to sign a letter asserting that the Senate had a “constitutional duty to give President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee a prompt and fair hearing and a timely vote.” Declaring that “[t]he Senate’s obligation in this circumstance is clear,” the letter invoked the Appointments Clause of the Constitution.

But, as I and others (including liberal law professors Noah Feldman and Vik Amar) pointed out at the time, the position that Tribe took had no support in the text of the Constitution and contradicted perennial Senate practice on nominations. The Appointments Clause states only that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint” various executive-branch and judicial-branch officers. In other words, it restricts the president’s power of appointment by conditioning any such appointment on prior receipt of the Senate’s “Advice and Consent” on a nomination. But it says nothing about how the Senate should go about exercising its power to advise and consent-or-withhold-consent, and it thus leaves the Senate entirely free to exercise that power however it sees fit.

Tribe’s position in March 2016 further surprised me because it contradicted Tribe’s own earlier (correct) recognition, in his 1985 book God Save This Honorable Court, that the Senate may block a Supreme Court nomination “by simply refusing to act upon it.”

I’m pleased to discover that Tribe now agrees that the Senate does not have a constitutional duty to take any action on a Supreme Court nominee. Continue reading

And The Self-Destruction Of America’s Journalism Continues: I Pronounce The Boston Globe Ethics Alarms DEAD

The Boston Globe is the first newspaper I ever read, admittedly because it long had (no more, alas) the best sports section in the country. Even after fate took me away from my beloved home town and deposited me, apparently forever, in Washington, D.C., I continued to subscribe. Many times, notably when the paper’s special investigative unit blew the top off of the city’s deep and long-rotting child molestation scandal among its Catholic priests, leading to the exposure of the unimaginable world-wide scandal that went all the way to the Vatican, the paper validated my loyalty and admiration.

But political bias was always the Globe’s Achilles Heel. The editorial staff was a Kennedy family lapdog, and this metastasized into knee-jerk  Democratic Party support even when it could not be logically justified. Eventually, it was obvious that the paper’s ethics alarms, if not dead, were barely pinging. in April of 2016, the paper suffered a crippling Donald Trump-sparked nervous breakdown, turning itself into a print version of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds.” It featured a phony front page —a portent of the fake news to come, but not just at the Globe—showing the dystopian future that awaited in the hopefully alternate dystopian universe where  Trump was elected President:

I wrote in part,

So disturbed is the editorial staff of the Boston Globe over the nauseating threat of a Donald Trump presidency that it has jettisoned all established principles of journalism ethics in an embarrassing, self-destructive effort to “stop” him. Mark this down as one more wound on the culture that Trump has inflicted with his luxury ego trip, with the assistance of his irrational supporters, of course….

“This is Donald Trump’s America. What you read on this page is what might happen if the GOP frontrunner can put his ideas into practice, his words into action. Many Americans might find this vision appealing, but the Globe’s editorial board finds it deeply troubling,” the editor’s note reads. Then follows an editorial urging the GOP to stop Trump.

The editorial is fine. The Globe could have even chosen to place it on its real front page instead of creating a National Lampoon imitation and been well within journalism ethics standards. Publishing fake news stories about what a theoretical President Trump might do? This is a spectacular  failure of professionalism and a journalistic disgrace. A newspaper is pledged to report the news, not imagine it. It is not ethically entitled to morph into Saturday Night Live or the Onion because it really, really, really feels strongly about an issue.

(Gee, I really called the news media’s eventual total abandonment of journalism ethics, didn’t I? Where are my bouquets? My Pulitzer?)

That was the end of my regular reading of the Boston Globe. This is the end of my regarding it as a newspaper. The correct term is “rag.” Come to think of it, that may be an insult to rags. Continue reading

From The Elephantine Ethics Alarm “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” Files: Reuters, Beto O’Rourke, And The Cult Of The Dead Cow

Reuters reported Friday that newly declared Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke had been part of an infamous hacker group as a teen. (Hacking is illegal unethical, don’t you know.)

Reporter Joe Menn said that he learned about O’Rourke’s involvement in the group when he began researching The Cult of the Dead Cow, which he called “the most interesting and influential hacking group in history.”

He discovered that an alumnus of the group had a member who was sitting in Congress. “I didn’t know which one,” Menn said, “and then I figured out which one it was. And the members of the group wouldn’t talk to me about who it was. They wouldn’t confirm that it was this person unless I promised that I wouldn’t write about it until after the November 2018 election,” that being O’Roarke’s unsuccessful effort to defeat Texas Senator Ted Cruz last year. Reuters, to be clear, sat on the story, which may have interested Texas voters, for two years.
Continue reading

Never Mind The Blackface: Governor Northam Should Resign Because He Is Cowardly, Untrustworthy, Dishonest And Too Weird For Words

And it is unethical for a governor to be cowardly, untrustworthy, dishonest and too weird for words. Virginia’s governor has embarrassed his state, it’s citizens, and everyone who voted for him. He is a source of humiliation for his party. He cannot lead, or do anything but harm while he remains in office.

You host here at Ethics Alarms is still sick and bed-ridden, but I had to crawl to my office for this. Wow. From the moment he appeared in the most unethical campaign ad I had seen from a Virginia candidate for office, appealing directly to anti-Trump derangement and hate by calling the President of the United States a “maniac,” I knew there was something seriously off about Ralph Northam, and, frankly, about anyone who would vote for him. His recent “oh, this is how you go about aborting a baby who has already been born” comments confirmed that assessment, ” but I was not in favor of forcing him out of office because he had appeared in blackface while a medical student 34 years ago. However, Northam’s conduct and statements since initially apologizing for the photo that surfaced this week are not 35 years old. They reveal the current character of the individual changed with overseeing the government of Virginia. That character is intolerable for any leader, and it was not what the Virginians who voted for Northam—I wasn’t fooled, but you can fool some of the people some of the time—believed they were electing.

In today’s Saturday Night Live-ready press conference, Governor Northam, his poor wife by his side, gave a bravura performance in self-character assassination: Continue reading

Fake Nudes

Rep. Octavio-Cortez tweeted this morning, “For those out of the loop, Republicans began to circulate a fake nude photo of me. The @DailyCaller reposted it (!) and refused to indicate it was fake in the title as well.”

Here is the “fake nude photo”…

How long will it take before nobody believes anything this silly woman says, or trusts in her judgment regarding anything? How much common sense and judgment does it take to realize that trying to insinuate a scandal based on describing an image of someone’s feet as “a nude photo” guarantees ridicule and diminished respect?

Whatever amount it is, it appears that the young Congresswoman is grievously short.