1. Dummies or Liars? In a comment about yesterday’s 7-2 SCOTUS ruling favoring the Christian cake shop in another baker vs. gay couple controversy, Still Spartan wrote, ” I also don’t want to spend the next few months explaining the ruling to non-lawyer liberals who already are beginning to tear their hair out because they don’t understand the opinion.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what she will have to do, and the rest of us, as there is already a deliberate effort underway to misrepresent the decision and deceive members of the public too lazy to read Supreme Court opinions, or too under-educated to understand them. (It really isn’t that hard.) This is fear-mongering, and also an effort to undermine the Supreme Court, which can be expected to be blocking a number of left-driven totalitarian measures in the not-too-distant future.
For example, on “The Late Show,” where a disturbingly high percentage of millennials get their news commentary, the smug, insufferable Stephen Colbert described the ruling this way:
“It’s a bad day for gay rights in America. And also for cake rights because this morning, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake to celebrate the marriage of a same-sex couple. That is tough news. But to lighten the blow the Supreme Court did send the gay couple a lovely cake” which was a cake in the shape of the middle finger.
Hilarious! And a complete misrepresentation of the opinion. The question is, did Colbert and his writers really not understand the ruling? What are the odds that any of them read it? If they didn’t know what the ruling was, isn’t it irresponsible to pass along false information? Or did they know that the opinion in no way undermined the rights of gays to be served in public accommodations like everyone else, but found, and correctly so, that the process was rigged against the baker because of open hostility to religious freedom? If so, the “joke” was deliberate misrepresentation.
The fact that the lie would have been in service of a joke is not a justification. Spreading falsity in public is harmful, and it does not matter who does it, or why.
2. From the “Stop making me defend the New York Yankees!” files: This is an integrity vs. cash test for Major League Baseball. ESPN announced that it was picking up the Yankees’ one 1 o’clock Sunday, July 8 game with the Blue Jays in Toronto for its 8 p.m. Sunday night Game of the Week. This decision, however, was announced after the Yankees and Orioles players agreed to make up last week’s rained out game as part of a doubleheader on July 9. As now scheduled, the Yankees will have to play three games in a 24 hour period. The Yankees would probably not leave the ballpark in Toronto until midnight, then have to go through customs, getting into Baltimore at 4 or 5 a.m., into their hotel rooms around 7, and be due at Camden Yards in a few hours.
This is potentially dangerous to the players (baseball is hard to play while asleep), and also undermines the team: the Yankees are expected to be in a neck-and-neck race with the Boston Red Sox for primacy in the American League East, and a single game could be crucial. If the Yankees are forced to play Sunday night on July 8, the Yankee management and players are threatening to retaliate against ESPN by refusing all interviews with ESPN broadcasters. Of course, killing those in-game interviews will only improve the broadcast.
Then the Yankees will claim that the Red Sox were colluding with ESPN, and there will have to be an investigation…
3. More from the Wide, Wide World of Sports! Yesterday, the President tweeted,
The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
The President is understandably tired of the traditional honor of being invited to the White House after a championship being exploited for cheap partisan protests—no other President has been subjected to this– and I endorse the cancellation. The Eagles responsible for the public conduct of their players, and how the team presents itself in public. Almost every black player had announced that he would not attend, and many white players as well, ensuring that what is supposed to be a unifying, ceremonial and symbolic function of the Presidency would be politicized. As with the threats of honorees to boycott the White House reception for the Kennedy Centers Honors, as with the White House Correspondents Dinner, the President has an ethical and official obligation to protect the office of the Presidency from efforts to diminish it. The Eagles were invited as an honor, and a significant portion of the team chose to respond with disrespect. The cancellation was reasonable and justified.
However, the last sentence in the President’s tweet is a non sequitur. No Eagles were among the addled kneelers and Colin Kaepernick impressionists during the last NFL season.
Compounding the problem, Fox News covered the dis-invitation story by including photos of Eagles players kneeling...in prayer, not in protest. Fake news, Fake history, sloppy reporting, and also inexcusably stupid: Does this look like a protest to you?
Not to be left out of the idiocy, the NFL’s spokesman condemned Trump’s action by saying that the White House was not his house, but the “people’s house,” and thus he should not bar the players from the White House honor because he feels disrespected. Huh? If that’s the Eagles attitude, then why were their players boycotting the event?
4. And speaking of fake news…Exploring a new route to attack the Trump administration, the mainstream media was prepared to pounce on a study by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health that found the likely death toll in Puerto Rico related to September’s Hurricane Maria was 4,645 and not the official government figure of 65. Of course, the day that report came out, Roseanne Barr called Valerie Jarret an ape, so you know which the news media chose to run with. Hmmm, lets’ see: massive death and destruction, celebrity scandals…easy choice, right?
Some news media did cover the story, though. NPR’s headline was “Study Puts Puerto Rico Death Toll From Hurricane Maria Near 5,000.””Puerto Rico Death Toll After Hurricane Is Actually Over 4,600, New Study Shows” was another headline. But that’s fake news. The study didn’t even pretend to say what the death toll “actually” was. The 4,645 figure was an estimate (it is intrinsically misleading to state rough estimates with that kind of precision), as the New York Times, justifying its own estimate of 1,052, explained…
The study, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most highly regarded peer-reviewed medical journals, analyzed a longer period than we did. It also used completely different methods.
Researchers visited more than 3,000 residences across the island and interviewed their occupants, asking whether anyone in their households had died, and whether the storm and its aftermath might have contributed. Residents reported that 38 people living in their households had died between Sept. 20, 2017, when Hurricane Maria struck, and the end of that year.
That toll, converted into a mortality rate, was extrapolated to the larger population and compared with official statistics from the same period in 2016. Researchers arrived at an estimate of roughly 4,600. Because the number of households surveyed was relatively small in comparison to the population’s size, there was a large margin of error. The true number of deaths beyond what was expected could range from nearly 800 to close to 8,500 people, the researchers’ calculations showed. The widely reported figure of 4,645 was simply the midpoint of that statistical window, known as a 95 percent confidence interval. Including a midpoint figure in such a report is standard academic practice.
No news source reporting the 4,645 figure was doing so ethically unless it explained this. Few news sources did. After all, it wouldn’t be so sensational if readers understood what they were reading.