Waning Day Ethics, 9/17/2020: An Unscientific Endorsement, A Frivolous Lawsuit, And Misunderstood Bomb-Throwers

1. Scientific American embarrasses itself. …like so, so many others. “Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly,” intone the magazine’s editors. Wrong. They are doing it to grandstand, and you can’t be more unserious than that. There is a reason SA hasn’t done this in 175 years—it’s a dumb thing to do. They don’t have any special expertise or perspective regarding national leadership, and scientific acumen is not a qualification for office. The alleged reason for the magazine’s endorsement of Joe Biden is its claim that the pandemic’s casualties would have been less had the President said and done things differently. This is total supposition, of course. “He was warned many times in January and February about the onrushing disease,” SA says, quoting juvenile anti-Trump source Axios. That’s odd, since those crack scientists in the CDC are on record as downplaying the seriousness of the virus, and even minimizing the need for masks.  More: “These lapses accelerated the spread of disease through the country—particularly in highly vulnerable communities that include people of color, where deaths climbed disproportionately to those in the rest of the population.” These people are scientists? The reasons for higher rates of infection among the poor and minority populations are many, and the interaction among them still undetermined. Lower levels of general health,  increased rates of illnesses like diabetes and conditions like obesity, more  crowded housing, a lack of the ability to stay at home—even a persistent rumor that blacks were immune have played a part, and nobody knows what measured would have changed anything.

“If almost everyone in the U.S. wore masks in public, it could save about 66,000 lives by the beginning of December, according to projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine.” Yeah, scientists have been doing really well with their projections in the pandemic, like the projections that 5% of the population would be infected. Since the research and pronouncements of scientists have been a) inconsistent and b) politicized from the start, it is disgraceful for Scientific American to pretend that any clear signals were being sent, or that there is any reason to believe another “projection, ” except as a useful way to attack the President. There is still  a strong argument that rejecting the scientists in favor of following the advice of economists would have placed the nation in a better situation.

The Scientific American endorsement is an example of the politicization of science, and explains why  scientists cannot be trusted.

2.  If there were such a thing as a frivolous lawsuit, this one by Alan Dershowitz would qualify.  Alan Dershowitz has filed a defamation lawsuit against CNN that demands $300,000,000 in compensatory and punitive damages for misrepresenting the professor’s legal arguments in the Trump impeachment trial.  Sure it did, but then CNN misrepresents everything. As long as there is a First Amendment, botched reporting and smearing public figures like Dershowitz will always be no-go for lawsuits.  Nick Sandmann got a settlement from CNN because he was not a public figure.

if you want the long version of why the lawsuit is hopeless, Jonathan Turley explores the topic here. Two points made by Turley are especially worth repeating:

  • He writes, “The damage demand also seems outlandishly theatrical and raises the question if the lawsuit is one last effort to clarify the record rather than seriously pursue relief.”

I think that’s likely, and if true, it’s an abuse of process.

  • Turley writes of CNN: “In the age of echo-journalism, CNN has sought to attract viewers who only want to hear that Trump is committing clear crimes, will eventually (if not imminently) be jailed, and that Trump supporters are knuckling-dragging, gun-toting zombies marching to his tune of white supremacy and authoritarianism.”

That’s remarkably blunt for the  courtly prof, whose strongest criticism is usually that something is “troubling.”

3. Aw, are those mean prosectors being hard on these poor, well-meaning  terrorists? This Buzzfeed article about the two ex-lawyers—STOP CALLING THEM LAWYERS!–Colin Mattis and Urooj Rahman, who threw Molotov cocktails into a police car shows how corrupt the Left’s media has become. It is a good insanity test: if you send the article to someone and they think it’s anything but head-exploding bats, kdon’t turn your back on them.

Representative quotes…

  • “The NYPD van on a Brooklyn street was banged up and empty, a battered steel shell with shattered windows and a mask of spray paint. Shortly before 1 a.m. on Saturday, May 30, the fourth straight night of nationwide protests against police brutality, a Molotov cocktail set it ablaze.”

BuzzFeed seems to feel this is mitigation. It isn’t. It is irrelevant that it was the fourth night of rioting (“Everybody Does It”), and irrelevant what the objective was (“The end justifies the means,”) It was also irrelevant what kind of condition the police van was in. Incendiary bombs are illegal, arson is a felony, and the fact that nobody was hurt or killed is moral luck.

  • “Within hours of the arrest, before Brooklyn prosecutors had even begun writing up charges, FBI agent Kyle Johnson submitted a criminal complaint in federal court, and federal prosecutors informed local authorities that the US attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York was taking over the case. No one knew it at the time, but this was one of the early moves in a widening federal crackdown against Black Lives Matter protesters across the country.”

People throwing bombs are not protesters, and prosecuting them is not part of a “crackdown.”

  • When it came to Rahman and Mattis and the alleged crime of burning an empty and already damaged police vehicle, the US attorney’s office brought charges so severe they carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 45 years in prison and a maximum of life — a potential punishment one former federal prosecutor called “ridiculous,” another called “out of hand,” and a third described as an “extreme” tactic to “send a message” to other protesters.

a.)That’s rioters and bomb-throwers, not “protesters.” b.) I guarantee neither arsonist will spend anything close to 45 years in prison. c.) Classic appeal to authority: Buzzfeed finds three anonymous “former federal prosecutors” to rely on.

  • …” Rahman and Mattis are both in their early thirties, with large social circles and close-knit families, living the American dream their immigrant parents had aspired for them. Rahman defended tenants facing evictions, and Mattis did pro bono work representing women with low incomes in family court while practicing corporate law at a prestigious firm. They had become attorneys in hopes of using the law to help balance the scales of a justice system that, in their eyes, favored rich over poor, white over Black, citizen over refugee.”

Then they decided that breaking the law was the way to go.  They are unqualified to be lawyers, and deserve no sympathy whatsoever.

19 thoughts on “Waning Day Ethics, 9/17/2020: An Unscientific Endorsement, A Frivolous Lawsuit, And Misunderstood Bomb-Throwers

  1. Nick Sandmann got a settlement from CNN because he was not a public figure.

    Does the fact that a settlement has been reached, or the fact that there was a lawsuit for which a settlement was reached, now render Nick Sandmann a public figure?

      • But probably limited (except for the fact that he spoke at the convention).

        Had he shut up and stuffed his money in a mattress and stayed home, his public figure status would be limited.

        Now that he has held himself out publicly, he is much more vulnerable to criticism/defamatory comments.


        • Anyone who settled with Sandman are also bound by their settlement agreement. I really do wonder if Sandman got a “nuisance settlement” or dinged CNN good. If it is a nuisance settlement then the pain on CNN for ignoring the settlement is likely small. On the other hand, if his lawyer did get stuff CNN doesn’t want public, CNN lawyers must be cringing every time one of their on air idiots mentions Sandman.

  2. I didn’t know Scientific American still existed. That is probably why they did this. Of course, they could be sending the message that “We are Democrats. We didn’t think slavery was a big deal, or fascism, or Jim Crow laws because we were in favor of all of those, at least a little. However, this Donald Trump guy is really bad.” That could be the message they are sending. Scientific American is a science journal the way a sanitation engineer teaches in an engineering program.

  3. I trust you Jack and Scientific American to be honest about your opinions and not intentionally to seek to mislead. In forming your opinions you both are inevitably influenced by your knowledge and experience, which is inevitably different to each other and to mine. You seem to call that ‘influence’ bias and decry it. I expect it. I am ‘biased’ about everything about which I have any knowledge or experience. I am only ‘unbiased’ where I am totally ignorant and uninterested. The closest I generally get to receiving unbiased reports is to take the mean of well diversified opinions, which is why I continue to read you amongst many others : and thank you for that.

  4. #1 – What’s the bet that there have been many Let…s (say this/say that) to the Ed quoting the approved (bad) sources and insisting SA states the party line in the publication? Just another form of blackmail from bandwagon-jumpers. If you aren’t on the right (Left) side, you’re disappointing us, not doing your job, perhaps … not worthy of our subscriptions.

  5. I’ve said a few times to choose heroes and villains carefully, and that it is not a good sign if evil is perceived as good and good as evil. Buzzfeed is treating these two former lawyers (or soon to be former, if they aren’t disbarred than the disciplinary authorities aren’t doing their jobs) like they are heroes. I think it’s the 1960s 2.0. There are still a huge number of people out there who think folks like the Black Panthers and the Weathermen were heroes. Of course, they are usually the same people who say Mumia Abu-Jamal didn’t kill Daniel Faulkner and that Ira Einhorn was sent to prison (where he finally died, and good riddance) because he was telling too many truths that made the establishment uncomfortable.

    Here’s the thing, though. The 1960s is now more than 50 years ago. Those who romanticize that time or justify what went on at least have the poor excuse of looking back through rose-colored glasses (or golden film gels), maybe with a Scott McKenzie pop song or Bob Dylan protest song playing in the background and remembering only what they want to remember. There’s no excuse for looking at what’s going on now through anything but the harsh light of the fires. There’s no excuse for the recent nonsense about only 7% of things got violent, so it’s really no big deal. There’s absolutely no excuse for justifying what these two people did.

    These are lawyers who are 31 and 32, so practicing 6 and 7 years. They are grown adults. They were both employed at high-level law firms, making appropriate high salaries, until the pandemic led to them being furloughed. Both were also bleeding-heart liberals who did pro bono work keeping deadbeat tenants from being thrown out and helping minority baby factories squeeze baby daddies for money. Mattis went to Princeton undergrad and NYU law. Both presumably took at least basic criminal law, criminal procedure, and legal ethics. The New York bar exam tests criminal law. You have to take an ethics exam to be admitted.

    These people should have known better. It would be one thing if they volunteered their services representing accused rioters in court (although the Manhattan DA isn’t prosecuting too many), but this?

    We all saw what happened to Lynne Stewart, the bleeding heart liberal who believed violence was ok at times and it was perfectly ok to silence dissidents to protect a people’s revolution from coming undone. She not only defended the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing (which I, then just a first-year law student, watched unfold on CBS, the only news station still functioning since they were in the Empire State Building, while praying very hard that my dad, then working in lower Manhattan, would make it home), but abused her status as an attorney to pass information and orders to other terrorists. She went to jail, and rightly so. She was sentenced to ten years, but released early because of the cancer that would kill her in 2017.

    We also saw what happened to Paul Bergrin, an even more venal attorney, who not only represented gangsters, but became one himself, who will only leave prison feet first on a cooling board. The thing is, he’d been a military officer, a state prosecutor, and a Federal prosecutor before all that. Both of them should have known better. Both of them did know better, but they let ideology in the former case, greed in the second, lead them to forget they knew better, and when they fell, they fell very hard indeed.

    This doesn’t even represent things you might expect a less-than-ethical lawyer to do, like cooking the books, passing information, or maybe using some of his client’s money intending to replace it. This is the behavior of a street thug. There is simply no excuse, and, although they might not serve the full 45 years, they could serve 10 or more. In the Federal system there is no parole, so if they get 10 years they are doing 10 years, not to be released until they are in their 40s, with nowhere to go and no job prospects.

    Yet to hear these idiots at Buzzfeed talk, these are courageous young community leaders trying to lead this nation into a better place, where black lives matter, old wounds finally heal, and things like what happened to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor never even come close to happening. Like I said in another post, it’s shoveling shit into your mouth and claiming it’s hot fudge.

    • I’m pretty sure you can’t practice law while being under arrest for a violent felony. Bars I am familiar with will at least suspend the license of a lawyer in such a situation pending a resolution. The fact is that they will never practice law again, and thus calling them lawyers is deceitful. They will lose their licenses even if they are acquitted.

  6. There is still a strong argument that rejecting the scientists in favor of following the advice of economists would have placed the nation in a better situation.

    The latest moral outrage these day is that billionaires got richer during the pandemic.

    What, exactly did people expect would happened when the government such down all the small business, and redirected everyone to shop at Jeff Bezo’s store, or and scramble to buy new computers to work at home from Bill Gates?

  7. #2 Jonathan Turley wrote in his conclusion…

    “The defamation standard is rooted in the First Amendment and designed to give ample “room at the elbows” for the exercise of free speech and the free press. This complaint would turn that liberating standard into a virtual straight jacket for the media.”

    “This complaint would turn that liberating standard into a virtual straight jacket for the media.”


    I strongly disagree!

    In my opinion CNN is no longer considered anything close to journalism, CNN is the equivalent to Pravda, they are totally consumed in an ideological battle that they intend to win at all cost, truth and facts be damned. Something drastic needs to take place to wake up the media and stop their intentionally biased misrepresentations, intentional distortions, partisan spin and blatant lies that they present to the public as truth and facts.

    Yes I think CNN intentionally portrayed Dershowitz as being a lunatic; I personally saw the coverage and I was appalled at the intentional lies! I was so appalled about it I included it in my blog post “What Have We Become” blog back in February 2020 saying in-part that Democrats (read CNN) “unethically cherry pick a segment of Dershowitz’s statements and present it to the American people completely out of context and misrepresent/lie about what Dershowitz was saying.” Even after Dershowitz appeared on CNN to explain to them that what they were reporting was a “total distortion, not misunderstanding, of my point” Democrats all over the USA were parroting CNN’s intentional lies about Dershowitz’s statements and CNN didn’t stop smearing Dershowitz with the lie. Yes I think CNN and others that were parroting the same smear should be sued for libel and slander, but $300,000,000 might seem extreme but in comparison to what CNN has been doing for the past few years this is a lesson that only a deep dive into their pocket book “might” help to correct.

    Here’s the core pattern of argumentation of the modern political left in the 21st century…

    If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.

    If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.

    If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it,
    people will eventually come to believe it.

    If you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes truth.

    If you repeat a lie many times, people are bound to start believing it.

    This the same kind of thing that was put into practice by the master propagandist Paul Joseph Goebbels who was a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.

    I really hope Dershowitz wins this case in court and it sets in motion a seriously needed change across the biased media, but I suspect CNN will eventually try to settle this one out of court like they have other cases and as a result CNN will simply continue their unethical biased support of the left’s march towards totalitarianism.

    Something drastically needs to change how “journalism” has become unethically biased and “journalists” have become unethical political activists, journalism needs to return to its ethical roots and the media’s lying propaganda must stop! Sure they have freedom of speech and freedom of the press but they are not immune to defamation and slander.

    • In my opinion CNN is no longer considered anything close to journalism, CNN is the equivalent to Pravda, they are totally consumed in an ideological battle that they intend to win at all cost, truth and facts be damned. Something drastic needs to take place to wake up the media and stop their intentionally biased misrepresentations, intentional distortions, partisan spin and blatant lies that they present to the public as truth and facts.

      How would you define:

      Fox News
      The Daily Caller
      National Review
      Red Ice

      If the Dershowitz lawsuit succeeds it will most certainly open the door to hundreds and then thousands of lawsuits. This will so complicate all forms of journalism, good or bad, fair or *yellow*, as to make it all impossible to contemplate.

      • I’m not going to define each one of those media outlets you listed but I’ll say this, if they are doing the same kind of slanderous things that CNN did to Dershowitz then they should be sued. The slanderous lies some media outlets say are terrible and it’s clear that their intent is to publicly smear and destroy the reputation of their target. I don’t have a problem with the media telling the the truth – all of it, it’s the slanderous lying propaganda that needs to be addressed.

    • What happened to “Sticks and stones may … etc.”? And what does “something drastically need to change” mean? You surely can’t be suggesting that being ‘defamed’ by CNN could ruin Dershowitz’s reputation? Seems to me it will enhance his brand whatever happens.

  8. For a group of people who believe “every vote counts”, they’re sure racking up the felony charges that will prevent many people of their ideological ilk from voting. Every time I see a new arrest and prosecution, I simply say, “There’s another person who won’t be voting in the 2020 election.”

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