1. Today’s fake news note from the New York Times: “A Trump justice delivers an LGBT ruling that demoralizes the Right.” This completely fabricated observation, a variety of fake news I refer to as “psychic news,”purports to, first, characterize the “Right” as a monolithic, anti-LGBT mob, in the way the Left really is a monolithic, anti-Trump mob, and second, claim an extreme reaction to the decision that just doesn’t exist. The Times front page says the 6-3 decision was one “few expected.” That’s deceit: most analysts I read reached the same conclusion I did, which was that a 5-4 decision supporting the interpretation announced yesterday had at least a 50-50 chance of coming down. I did not expect the vote to be 6-3, but anyone familiar with how these things line up shouldn’t be shocked. Once he realized that the majority was going to hold that discrimination against gays and transgender individuals illegal, Justice Roberts may have joined the majority so that he could assign the opinion to Justice Gorsuch, for example.
President Trump has never indicated any animus towards gays or same sex marriage (Pence is another story); the presumption that the President’s supporters are horrified that discrimination against gays and transsexuals wasn’t upheld is just another version of the “deplorables” slur. Moreover, I believe the decision, and the fact that Justice Gorsuch joined with the Left wing of the court to cement it makes the President look good to all but reflex Trump-haters. His job is to appoint competent, open-minded justices, and he has. Gorsuch was never a conservative ideologue, though the Democrats who opposed him in the Senate falsely represented him as one. The decision also makes the Supreme Court look good by once again proving that it is not the lock-step partisan body Democrats claim, and that Chief Justice Roberts has correctly denied. It would be even better if the Court’s block of four liberals were as open-minded and non-partisan as Roberts, Gorsuch, and in other recent cases, Kavanaugh have shown themselves to be. Continue reading
… to end a frantic ethics week…
(An unusual number of the items this morning deserve a free-standing post. I’m not sure what to do about that; it’s been happening a lot lately.)
1 Not fake news, just a false news story that everyone ran with...Oops. All the angry condemnations of new CIA director designate Gina Haspel and President Trump (for nominating her, along with existing) were based on a mistake. From ProPublica:
On Feb. 22, 2017, ProPublica published a story that inaccurately described Gina Haspel’s role in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader who was imprisoned by the CIA at a secret “black site” in Thailand in 2002. The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.
ProPublica, unlike, say, CNN, knows how to accept responsibility for a bad journalism botch. Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief, sums up the episode after explaining how the story was misreported:
A few reflections on what went wrong in our reporting and editing process.
The awkward communications between officials barred from disclosing classified information and reporters trying to reveal secrets in which there is legitimate public interest can sometimes end in miscommunication. In this instance, we failed to understand the message the CIA’s press office was trying to convey in its statement.
None of this in any way excuses our mistakes. We at ProPublica hold government officials responsible for their missteps, and we must be equally accountable. This error was particularly unfortunate because it muddied an important national debate about Haspel and the CIA’s recent history. To her, and to our readers, we can only apologize, correct the record and make certain that we do better in the future.
Perfect. This is a news source we can trust.
2. That was ProPublica. This is CNN (The Chris Cuomo post was here originally, but it got so long I posted it separately.) Continue reading
The “Ice Bucket Challenge” is a silly, brilliant fund-raising device that has simultaneously increased public awareness of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, brought over 14 million more dollars of donated funds into the ALS Association than last year for research, and provided some priceless YouTube fare, ranging from celebrity drenchings to this…
Entertainment! Celebrities! Medical research! Charity! Public Education! How could there be anything unethical about such a phenomenon? Well, ethics often throw cold water on all manner of activities human beings crave, so it should not be too great a surprise that the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has generated quite a few ethics-based objections. Let’s examine the potential, alleged and actual ethical flaws of the current fad, and rate them on an Ethics Foul Scale from zero (No ethical concerns at all) to ten ( Very Unethical).
1. It’s dangerous.
Anything can be dangerous if you are not sufficiently careful, and the Ice Bucket Challenge had its consequentialist moment when four firefighters were injured, one very seriously, trying to help the marching band at Campbellsville University get dumped with ice water this week. Two firefighters were in the bucket of their truck’s ladder preparing to douse the students using a firehose when a surge of electricity jumped from nearby power lines and electrucuted them and two colleagues. This was just a freak accident, however. Unlike the so-called Facebook Fire Challenge, the ALS fundraisng stunt shouldn’t be perilous to anyone, as long as practitioners don’t get too grandiose or creative.
Ethics Foul Score:
2. It wastes water.
“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”
—-Baseball great Lou Gehrig, beginning his farewell speech to Yankee fans on July 4, 1939, as they filled Yankee stadium to say farewell to “the Iron Horse,” who was retiring from the game after being diagnosed with the incurable disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known forever after as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”
Lou Gehrig was only 36 years old when he learned that he was dying. ALS is a terrible wasting disease that has no cure, and in 1939 there was little treatment or assistance that could be offered to a victim as his body slowly ceased to function. It is an especially cruel disease for a professional athlete to face, and even more so one, like Gehrig, who was renowned for his endurance and seemingly indestructible body. When the progress of the illness, still then undiagnosed, caused Gehrig to remove himself from the New York Yankees line-up on May 1, 1939, it ended his amazing streak of 2,130 consecutive games, a baseball record that stood until broken by Cal Ripken, 56 years later.
Gehrig’s speech was from his heart. He was an educated and articulate man, but he had not planned on speaking at the moving ceremony to bid him farewell, as current former team mates, some of the greatest players ever to take the field, gathered to pay their respects. But the Yankee Stadium crowd of more than 60,000 began chanting his name, and after initially refusing, Gehrig moved to the microphone. Continue reading
Be like Lou, Pat...so the next diminished leader can be like you.
Pat Summitt, the legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach who has won more games than any other college coach ever, men’s or women’s, received test results from the Mayo Clinic at the end of May that confirmed early-onset Alzheimer’s type dementia. The irreversible brain disease is now at work destroying the 59-year-old Summitt’s abilities of recall and cognition, and as it is for the other estimated 5 million Americans with the disabling disease, the prognosis is grim.
Everyone in the Tennessee and sports community as well as the media and all of us who have seen loved ones suffer with the disease are rallying behind Summitt, who is one of the toughest, smartest, most determined figures in sports. But Coach Summitt has decided that her symptoms are not yet severe enough to force her into retirement, and she intends to stay at the helm of the Tennessee women’s basketball team at least three more years.
It is the wrong decision. It is a selfish and unethical decision. The question is whether anyone will have the courage to try to convince Summitt that she has a duty to the team, the school, her own legacy and basic principles of ethics to change course and do the right thing. Quit. Continue reading