1. If you haven’t yet read them, Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on Chris’s brilliant Comment of the Day regarding ideological and partisan hate—plus Chris Bentley’s Comment of the Day on the same post, are all especially worth reading, not that all Comments of the Day by Ethics Alarms readers are not. I apologize for an unusually long intro to Steve’s post, but I had been holding on to a lot of related material from the day past on the topic, and it was either use them there or be redundant later. This meant putting Steve-O’s COTD after the jump, which is why I’m giving an extra plug to it now.
2. There were two significant criminal trial verdicts yesterday: the guilty verdict in the trial of Michelle Carter, a Massachusetts woman charged with murder for using text messages to persuade her teenaged boyfriend to kill himself, and the acquittal of the Minnesota police officers who shot and killed black motorist Philandro Castile during a traffic stop. I’ll cover the Carter case later.
There were the obligatory riots after the verdict acquitting Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who fatally shot Castile in his car after he told the officer that he was carrying a legally registered firearm and then reached for his wallet to show the officer his license. This is just the latest cattle-car in the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, the familiar pattern of a badly-trained cop, a dubious police stop, poor judgment by a victim, and a needless death. I would compare it to the Tamir Rice shooting in Cleveland, where the officers involved weren’t even indicted.
Why in the world would a motorist tell a cop in that situation—Castile had been officially stopped for a broken tail light, but in reality because he was black, and the officers thought he resembled a suspect in a crime who was also black—that he had a gun? This could be interpreted as a threat, and obviously Yanez saw it as one. The verdict looks wrong at a gut level, but it is easy to see how the jurors were thinking: they placed themselves in the officer’s position. They would have been in fear of their lives, so they couldn’t find a way to pronounce Yanez a murderer for doing what they could see themselves doing under similar circumstances. This was a legitimate case for reasonable doubt under the law. Police officers, however, are supposed to be less likely to panic than a typical juror. Castile is dead because of incompetent police work, but the criminal laws don’t allow different standards to be applied for different occupations, not should they.
The civil laws do, however. Yanez has been fired, and Castile’s family will receive damages for wrongful death. That’s all the justice the system can provide. Once again, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is a very difficult standard. Bad cops are dangerous, but they aren’t necessarily criminals. The verdict is defensible, and, I think, virtually unavoidable.
3. The consensus seems to be that the portion the New York Times editorial on June 15 that eventually required this correction on the paper’s website, as noted in the Ethics Alarm morning warm-up that day…
Correction: June 15, 2017
An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established.
…was not a mistake born of lazy editing and typical Times bias, as I assumed, but an intentional effort to find a false equivalency between the 2011 Tucson shooting of Rep. Giffords and this week’s assassination attempt against Republican House members on an Alexandria, Va. baseball field. What the Times originally printed was that “the link to political incitement was clear” between the crazy Jared Lee Loughner’s shooting spree and Palin’s online map using crosshairs to indicate “targeted” Congressional races, including one over Giffords’s congressional district in Southern Arizona. It was not “clear,” however, or real, and indeed had been thoroughly debunked years ago. And the false statement in the original editorial was not a typo, but deliberate: all indications are that the Times made its correction only after a wave of criticism, not because it discovered a missing negative.
To those indignant defenders of the mainstream media on Ethics Alarms and elsewhere: how can you deny this wasn’t fake news reincarnated as fake history? How can you continue claiming that the diagnosis that journalism is untrustworthy is a right-wing conspiracy theory, when the Times does something like this?
The Washington Post’s Factchecker gleefully pounced on its rival to bring down Donald Trump’s Presidency first, concluding,
“We’re glad to see this fixed in the editorial, but it’s not a good sign that the debunked talking point was included as fact in the editorial of a major media outlet”
“Not a good sign.” Wow—the Post is really going out on a limb.
4. Here’s a more recent example of the unbiased flagship of U.S. journalism spinning to mislead readers, from today’s front page: “A professor in Washington objected to a racial-awareness event, prompting threats and protests.” This refers to the mess at Evergreen State College, and “the racial-awareness event” was in truth a racist event in which all whites were evicted from the campus, like lepers cast out into the wilderness. Professor Bret Weinstein was the only staff member with courage and integrity to condemn this “event” and has been harassed by students and other faculty members ever since.
The Times’s slanted coverage carries over to the article itself, which begins,
“It started with a suggestion that white students and professors leave campus for a day, a twist on a tradition of black students voluntarily doing the same.”
Again, false reporting. In past years, the racist “event” involved black students “voluntarily” fleeing the campus for a day to get away from all those bigoted, horrible whites. This year, the black students ordered the whites to “voluntarily” leave the campus while they stayed. That’s no “twist.” That’s mandatory segregation by race, and racism. The Times is trying to make the unethical and divisive appear harmless and benign.
5. President Trump’s learning curve isn’t just flat, it’s sinking. He issued another self-destructive tweet yesterday, attacking his own Deputy Attorney General. The efforts to argue for the removal of Trump based on partisan diagnoses of a mental defect are dishonest and despicable, but I have to say, this continued tweeting can only explained by insanity, stupidity, or addiction.
I’m presuming someone among the President’s advisors explained to him that his tweets about the still-blocked temporary travel halt handed biased judges what they believed was sufficient ammunition to plausibly ignore the law and declare that this President couldn’t legally do what any other President could. Why didn’t anyone read to POTUS Jonathan Turley’s blog post about how the President’s tweets gave cover the Ninth Circuit?
I thought that the Ninth Circuit opinion was very interesting and well written. In the end, however, I thought that the Court had to work too hard to find a way to rule against Trump, particularly in drawing the distinction between dangerous countries and individuals under its nationality discrimination analysis. The coup de grâce however was Trump’s own words contradicting the arguments of his own lawyers. The court noted “Indeed, the President recently confirmed his assessment that it is the ‘countries’ that are inherently dangerous, rather than the 180 million individual nationals of those countries who are barred from entry under the President’s ‘travel ban.” and quoted one of Trump’s tweets from June 5, 2017: “That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!”
That did not stop Trump from again tweeting about the case this morning as coming at a “dangerous time.” The continuing tweets (against the public advice of even GOP members) so a disconnect from any rationale approach to this litigation. Trump has repeatedly undermined his own case with these comments.
President Trump is not insane. He might be addicted. He is an idiot.