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Foot-in-Mouth Awards for the Week

Vivia Chen

November 9, 2012

Baby_© hartphotography - Fotolia.comI'm still reeling from the presidential elections, and all that nasty mudslinging. So what better time to check up on some offensive news items:

Winner of collegiality award: Daniel Isaacs. I've always thought that people who clerked together are joined at the hip for life. Guess that's not the case with Daniel Isaacs, the chairman of the New York County Republican Party, and New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who just won reelection to the U.S. Senate.

Although both Isaacs and Gillibrand clerked for the  late Judge Roger Miner of the Second Circuit, Isaacs is not exactly congratulating Gillibrand about her win. Here's what Isaacs is saying about his former office mate, according to City & State:

She is so in over her head, to me it’s unfortunate that she’s a U.S. senator. It’s an example of why we are where we are as a country that we don’t have people of substance who really can step up. It’s a joke.

Isaacs didn't stop there. He adds: “She’s Chuck Schumer’s lap dog,” referring to New York’s senior senator.

Gillibrand made the appropriate response: no response. Hat tip: Above the Law.

Winner of judicial dignity award: Sterling Johnson Jr., EDNY.  A former dean at St. John's University in New York, Cecilia Chang, had been accused of embezzling more than $1 million from the university and using foreign students as her personal servants by threatening to cut off their scholarships. After a disastrous performance on the stand at her own trial, Chang went home and killed herself by hanging.

So how did the presiding judge, Sterling Johnson of New York's Eastern District, respond to this shocking turn of events? Here's how Johnson explained the news to the jurors, reports The New York Times:

“Sayonara,” Judge Johnson said, adding that Chang had gotten everything off her chest in the previous day’s testimony. “We never know how an individual handles the pressure.” He called the turn of events a “Shakespearean tragedy.”

"Sayonara"? Really? I mean, she wasn't even Japanese.

Winner of the Asian American inclusion award: Citizens Against Government Waste and Americans for Prosperity. If you want to broaden your political base, may I suggest that you start by not demonizing those whose support you need?

I'm talking about a video called "Chinese Professor," a 49-second political ad about the perils of government debt. First produced in 2010, it is now playing all over TV, even postelection. It is so over-the-top offensive and racist that it could be mistaken for parody, except that it's not. I don't know where to start my comments. So click on and judge for yourself.


Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at vchen@alm.com.

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Honestly, you sound like a schill for the psuedo-educated left. What is offensive about any of this? In the first instance, a politician spoke his opinion about another politician. You are COMPLAINING about frankness in politics? In the second, the deceased killed herself because she knew she was guilty, and the trap was closing. She was not a victim of a "disastrous" day of testimony; she was a criminal. And the third is frankly accurate and has nothing racist involved whatsoever. Please stop using the word "racist" to cover anything you find morally unpleasant.

There's nothing racist about the Chinese Professor ad. China is generally regarded in America these days as an up-and-coming great power -- our probable replacement.

The ad suggests that this is so, that they are earning that position honestly, and that they will laugh at us because we are acting like idiots and they aren't. Note how Americanized the students are. China is presented as the new America.

Of course, it's seen as bad to have a foreign power control your country. The Chinese see it that way too (read about Chinese history, Ms. Chen, if you slept through that class). Everybody does. The "otherness" of the Chinese is a minor theme in the ad. It's there, it fits some of the more laughably loose definitions of racism that would-be zampolits like to threaten people with, but it's not the point.

In fact, when we default, they'll be in worse trouble than us. I think they're overrated. But I could be wrong.

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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