One More Time, The Second Accuser Scenario, And Fairness For Justin Fairfax

From the Washington Post today:

“A Maryland woman said Friday she was raped by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) in a “premeditated and aggressive” assault in 2000, while they both were undergraduate students at Duke University. She is the second woman this week to make an accusation of sexual assault.

The woman, Meredith Watson, said Friday in a written statement through her attorney that she shared her account immediately after it happened with several classmates and friends. Watson did not speak publicly Friday and her lawyer did not make her available for an interview.

Watson was friends with Fairfax at Duke but they never dated or had any romantic relationship, the lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, said.

“At this time, Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character,” Smith said in the statement . “She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has greatly affected her life. Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages.”

Now what?

An unrelated accusation of conduct X does not mean that a previous unsubstantiated accusation of the same conduct is true. However…

  • In the case of habitual or characteristic misconduct—like being a sexual predator or a sexual harasser—the likelihood that there have been more, undisclosed episodes involving the individual accused is high.
  • Thus the absence of a credible second (or third, fourth, and onward) accuser in a matter like this is legitimate evidence arguing for the innocence of the accused. An example would be Clarence Thomas.
  • When subsequent allegations are substantially similar to the original accusation, they are especially damning. Bill Cosby is the poster case for this variation. Another exampole: Kevin Spacey.
  • When the second and additional allegations are suspiciously timed, as during an election or a political controversy, when they involve general misconduct only, lack named accusers or when they are sketchy in their facts and proof, they should be regarded with extreme skepticism. The add-on Kavanaugh accusations fit this description.
  • The fact that a court decision or an official investigation has not definitively determined that misconduct has taken place does not require individuals, groups and the public to discard commons sense, if they can eliminate bias from their decision-making. O.J. Simpson, it is fair to say,  is guilty of murder, and it is completely fair to regard him in that light. Barry Bonds used banned and illegal drugs to enhance his major league baseball career. Harvey Weinstein is a sexual predator who traded professional advancement for sex. We don’t need admissions here to come to informed decisions.

Now what does all of this mean for Justin Fairfax, next in line to be Governor of Virginia if Governor Northam decides, as an honorable public servant should, that he has made such an irredeemable ass of himself by his obfuscations, double-back flips, and tap-dancing around the question of whether he had a photo of himself in blackface in his yearbook that no Virginian in his or her right mind could possibly feel secure trusting such a boob to handle the affairs of the Commonwealth? What is fair? Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Clown Show In Virginia

What a TEAM!!!

I arrived in Austin, Texas exhausted, still suffering from whatever it is that’s been sapping my energy for the last month, and resigned to staying off the blog until tomorrow, a news day, and with luck a healthier me arrived. Then I learned about the latest ridiculous development in my adopted home state of Virginia. My mind was awash with images of George Washington, Patrick Henry, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe—no, not Woodrow Wilson, he liked blackface—-all doing backflips in their graves. I can’t stand it. I have to write something.

But what? I don’t even know what this mass meltdown of the Virginia Democrats is. And what does it mean? Could it possibly mean that all of our elected officials are secretly absurd, untrustworthy morons? That can’t be it, can it? CAN IT?  Heck, before this, Virginia wasn’t even on my list of top ten ridiculous state governments, then the next think I know, the Governor of Virginia is solemnly explaining how one would go about a post-birth abortion, and then someone finds a weird photo of Governor Northam simultaneously dressed in blackface and in KKK robes, or something, in his mediacl school yearbook, and I didn’t even know medical schools had yearbooks. Maybe only medical schools where they teach post birth abortions? I don’t know. Anyway, suddenly the Governor is apologizing and saying that yes, he was in one of those costumes, then he’s saying that, upon reflection, he would NEVER have dressed like that for a yearbook photo, and he never saw the thing before, BUUUUT he did recall putting  shoe polish on his face that same year to imitate Michael Jackson, but not TOO much, because as we all know, it’s hard to wash off. Which is totally not what Matthew McConaughey promised the whites in the jury when he asked them to make themselves black for a while in that dramatic closing argument in “A Time To Kill,” but I digress. Anyway, Democrats realize that accusing Republicans and conservatives of being racists is the whole ball game for them, so obviously Northam had to go, and his own Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, who is also conveniently black as well as next in line if Northam quit, made comments suggesting that just maybe a Michael Jackson imitator, even one whose act was 35 years old, might not be exactly what the Old Dominion needs in these fraught times, not that this conclusion had anything to do with the job promotion it would involve for him. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: College of William And Mary

“That behavior has no place in civil society – not 35 years ago, not today. It stands in stark opposition to William & Mary’s core values of equity and inclusion, which sustain our mission of learning, teaching, and research.”

—William and Mary  president Katherine Rowe, explaining the justification behind the school’s disinvitation of Virginia Governor  Ralph Northam to peak at the school following the revelation that he wore blackface in 1984, when he was a medical student.

This is the quality of thought, logic and fairness being displayed at the highest levels of our education institutions? Bad behavior in 2019 has no place in 2019’s society, and bad behavior in 1984  had no place in 1984 civil society. It may have no place in 2019’s civil society, but since it didn’t occur in that society, that doesn’t matter. What matters in civil society now is what those in that society now  they behave now, and how we can trust them to to behave in the future.

There is no reason to believe, now, today, based on his relevant, recent conduct, that Governor Northam is going to engage in the conduct in question now, or that his conduct in 1984 suggests that he is likely to engage in that conduct in the future. Continue reading

When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: The Virginia Cankerworm Bill (and a Poll)

At this point it is superfluous to name Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran an Ethics Dunce. That’s obvious, both from extreme her pro-late term abortion position, and her disingenuous, cowardly back-tracking once her callous and unethical views went viral on YouTube. This, however, requires not merely malfunctioning ethics alarms but dead political survival alarms, melted human decency alarms, and rusted-solid “How can I look at myself in the mirror?” alarms.

The same day, January 9, that Tran introduced “House Bill No. 2491 — Abortion; eliminate certain requirements,” she introduced House Bill No. 2495 – Fall cankerworm; spraying prohibited during certain months.”

No, the bills aren’t really related, except symbolically. Tran’s abortion bill aims to strip virtually all legal protections for the unborn in Virginia. Tran’s other bill adds protections for caterpillars, though the objective of the bill isn’t really the welfare of the bugs. Nonetheless, the juxtaposition is ugly and to some, telling. To full-throttle abortion advocates like Tran, unborn children might as well be worms, except that they don’t object to restrictions on worm-killing. 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

Ethics Quiz And Comment Of The Day: The Governor’s Yearbook Photo [Corrected]

You know you’re having a bad week as a politician when one scandal knocks a another scandal you’re involved in off the front page. Welcome to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s world right now, and where he’ll end up in it, nobody knows.

In case you missed it, Northam and abortion-loving Democrats were in the midst of trying to justify his comments earlier in the week accepting the concept of legal infanticide when a medical school yearbook photo turned up on social media, showing the governor-to-be either in black face or wearing Ku Klux Klan garb. Yes, this was another Hader Gotcha: conservatives were looking for dirt under very old rugs.  Northam confirmed that it was indeed him in one of the two costumes (but not which!) and issued the now familiar “this is not who I am now” apology:

“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,” Northam said in his statement. “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment. I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.”

It was immediately clear that this would not suffice. Northam is a Democrat, after all, and that is the party of race-baiting. Republicans weren’t likely to let Northam talk his way out of this either, not after he won his close 2017 gubernatorial election against Republican Ed Gillespie with the assistance of a jaw-dropping TV ad ad linking Gillespie to  the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville and showing the GOP candidate trying to run down minority kids in his car.  Although the ad was not a product of his campaign, Northam refused to condemn it, and his campaign reported it as an “in-kind contribution.” The campaign also sent out a mailer tying Guillespie to white nationalists.

What Republicans say about the yearbook photo doesn’t matter, however. Northam’s own party turned on him, with his Democratic predecessor Terry McAulliffe, the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and the Democrats in Virginia’s state legislature all calling on him to resign.

After all, casually endorsing infanticide is easy to defend to the hard-core Democratic base, but wearing a tasteless costume 38 years ago while a student is unforgivable.

Wait…what?

The instant issue might be moot in a few hours, as the betting is that Northam will resign, but  your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day’s  question will remain:

Should Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook photo require him to resign as Virginia Governor?

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/1/2019: Dumb, Dumber, Fake, and Fakiest

At least this guy has hair

If I’m out of bed, it’s morning to me…

1. Update. Wow. My furious ex-Ethics Alarms commenter actually filed a motion to oppose my motion to extend the time to file a response brief to his rambling 70+ page, incoherent rant of an appellant brief, as he tries to get the dismissal of his defamation suit against me overturned. Such extensions are granted as a matter of course and courtesy, and real lawyers never oppose them, so a petty motion like that sends a strategically unwise signal to the court that this is not really a legal matter but an abuse of process to pursue a grudge. Of course, reading the brief itself makes that clear.

2. Incompetent Elected Official Of The Day: Rep. Jason Crow (D-Co), who tweeted about the President sending troops to the border,

This guy needs to be sent back to government kindergarten. Troops are almost always deployed for political reasons, both national and international. Does he remember when LBJ sent troops into Selma? How about Truman using troops to break the railroad worker’s strike? Commenter Tim Levier correctly notes, “What troop was ever deployed for a non-political agenda? They go where the politicians send them. And what better place than in their home country defending their actual borders for national defense?”

The  new class of Democratic representatives is one for the ages. What an idiot. Continue reading