Instant Ethics Train Wreck: The Alabama Gay Marriage Stand-off

What does Dred Scott have to do with the Alabama gay marriage mess? Absolutely nothing.

What does Dred Scott have to do with the Alabama gay marriage mess? Absolutely nothing.

This summer, the Supreme Court will again take up the issue of the Constitutionality of state gay marriage bans, having left the question open (why, I don’t know) after striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Since that ruling, the states have been busy little bees, some passing laws banning same-sex marriage, some doing the opposite, then fighting out multiple appeals at various levels of the judicial system. Three things are certain: the cultural and legal acceptance of same-sex marriage looks unstoppable; all states need to agree on what a legal marriage is; and some faith-based same-sex marriage opponents will not give in until the last dog dies.

Beginning at the end of last week, a messy situation in Alabama involving all of these factors burst into a full-fledged ethics train wreck. The links in this post will let you immerse yourself in the mess if you choose: I’m going to try to be clear. Here is what has transpired so far:

1) A federal judge, District Court Judge Callie V. Granade,  struck down the state’s ban  on same-sex marriages in January and said that Alabama could start issuing licenses last week unless the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and stayed her order. A stay was immediately requested by the Alabama Attorney General, who properly defended the state’s law.

2.) The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to step in and stop her order from going into effect.

3) The U.S. Supreme Court also refused the stay request, allowing marriages to proceed in Alabama.

4) Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, reminded everyone that probate judges report to him, not the federal judge and not the Attorney General, and do not have to issue marriage licenses to gay couples until he tells them to. He told them not to.

5) Some Alabama probate judges followed Moore, and some went ahead and issued the licenses. Mass confusion reigned.

6) Meanwhile, the refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay pending its ruling on state same-sex marriage laws later this year was widely interpreted as tantamount to SCOTUS deciding the case before it was even argued.

7) Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent from the  majority’s rejection of the stay (we don’t know what the vote break was), argued that “This acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution of that question. This is not the proper way to discharge our . . . responsibilities.”

8) Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, meanwhile, appeared to endorse gay marriage in an interview.

9) Attempting to break the impasse, U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade ordered Mobile County, Alabama to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, paving the way for resistant officials across the state to follow suit, in a decision stating that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage had been struck down and that ­Mobile County’s probate judge had to adhere to that decision.

10) Chief Justice Moore remains unmoved, but now most of the probate judges are following the federal order.

Got that?

Good, now you can explain it to me.

What a mess.

Here are the ethics verdicts on the participants so far: Continue reading

Journalism Ethics Reality Check: What The Entire News Media Did To Darren Wilson With Dorian Johnson’s “Hands Up” Story Is EXACTLY Like What Rolling Stone Did To UVA With “Jackie’s” Rape Account, Just Worse.

Am I the only one who sees this?

Two train wrecks, same track...

Two train wrecks, same track…

I discern that I was too subtle—imagine that!when I wrote,

In light of all this, it seems that women really have done a relatively poor job at intimidating the left-biased media as well as its progressive pundits and elected officials. If they had sufficiently pressured journalists into believing that to challenge their accounts of rape, substantiated or not, was proof positive of malicious animus, like the civil rights machine has regarding narratives of police racism, they could depend on much of the media continuing to repeat the Rolling Stone account as truth even if it is completely discredited. This is, after all, what we are witnessing right now, as the recent grand jury decision in the Eric Garner death has allowed columnists, reporters, and broadcasters—and thus protesters and politicians—to continue to represent what happened to Michael Brown as if Dorian Johnson’s discredited description of his friend’s death was fair, accurate and unbiased.

So let me be clear….

We are told the the news media is furious with Rolling Stone over its discredited and anonymously sourced gang rape accusation against the University of Virginia’s chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. Why is it not similarly critical of itself for publicly and far more widely accusing a single, named Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, of a race-motivated, cold-blooded execution of an unarmed man based on the allegations of Dorian Johnson? They are, from a journalism ethics perspective, equally irresponsible and unprofessional, and predictably more harmful. It is, we can stipulate, worse for a police officer to be accused of first degree murder than for unnamed members of a fraternity to be accused of rape.

Note:

1. Both Rolling Stone and the mainstream media were eager to accept the stories being told as fact because of their own ideological biases.

Rolling Stone is committed to the current campaign of the left to portray college campuses as perpetuating a “rape culture.” The mainstream media, as it had already proved in its slanted and incompetent coverage of Trayvon Martin’s death and the trial of George Zimmerman, is a shameless ally of the cynical Democratic Party’s tactic of representing the nation as racist. Continue reading

The “Rolling Stone” UVA Gang Rape Botch

Student protest against campus rape at UVA. And if the rape didn't happen? Take a cue from the "hands up!" crowd: keep protesting. The news media won't notice.

Student protest against campus rape at UVA. And if the rape didn’t happen? Take a cue from the “Hands up!” crowd: keep protesting! The news media won’t notice.

Hardly making it to the headlines (except where I live) is the latest example of 1) irresponsible journalism and 2) the results of the Obama administration threatening colleges with sanctions of they don’t presume every male student accused of sexual assault is guilty.

On Nov. 19, Rolling Stone published a sensational report—sensational, mind you—by reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, telling the tale of a vicious  gang rape at the  Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia. The victim and the source of the story, a young woman called “Jackie,” said that in 2012 she was forced into a room in the fraternity  and raped by seven men, as her date and another man  cheered her assailants on.

In response to the uproar triggered by the story, the university, which was loathe to be a target of investigations and sanctions by the Obama administration if they did not act with appropriate haste and severity,  suspended all the campus fraternities until January as the media went into a feeding frenzy. Meanwhile, the alleged crime is under investigation by local police. [UPDATE: Here is a call to suspend the UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan:  “Her decision was arbitrary, rash and wrong. Even Delta House got some semblance of a trial in the movie, ‘Animal House.'” I do not disagree.]

Several journalists diplomatically raised questions about the account, especially the fact that the story was often phrased in terms that left  no hint that these were allegations only. In an environment where the party in control of the White House maintains that any hesitation to regard a rape accusation as inherently reliable is proof of a “war on women,” one unnamed woman’s  unconfirmed accusation presented as truth by a female reporter was sufficient to trigger adverse consequences for male UVA students with remarkably little reflection: this was unfair, an example of punishing all the horses because someone said that one of them left the barn.

It should be no surprise that the other shoe has dropped. Continue reading

Alleged Fraud And Corruption In Holder’s Justice Department: Why Isn’t This Considered News?

A drunken pumpkin riot! Now THAT'S News!

A drunken pumpkin riot! Now THAT’S News!

Possible answers to the question posed above:

1. Because everyone already knows that the Justice Department is corrupt and Eric Holder is an incompetent political hack.

2. There was a huge pumpkin festival riot in Keane, New Hampshire!

3. The news media is so biased that it will even treat an astounding judicial ruling as a made-up “conservative media” story.

4. It’s just more evidence of how abysmally the Obama administration is being run, and an election is coming up.

5. The world has gone mad.

I think any of them are plausible explanations.

Whichever it is, I guess I am honored to be able to help break some news, as it is not usually an Ethics Alarms function. This story has made it to exactly one news source as I write this, the New York Observor, though a few conservative blogs are noting it. Read the story itself and the links here.

Meanwhile, I’ll summarize:

Two former Assistant United States Attorneys say Holder ‘s Justice Department engaged in deceit and corruption  in pursuing  its litigation against Sierra Pacific Industries, a California lumber company. Responding to the allegations—and remember that false allegations of this magnitude would mean the end of these lawyers legal careers– Federal District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. has ordered the recusal of every federal judge in the Eastern District of California, on the theory that since the court may have been defrauded by the government,  an outside judge is needed to handle the matter to avoid a conflict of interest. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “9 Observations On The Boston Herald’s ‘Racist’ Cartoon”

cartooning

In my post on the matter, I called out to Barry Deutsch, a.k.a. Ampersand, an accomplished political cartoonist and blogger who has graced this space in the past, for his professional reaction to the controversy over the Boston Herald’s Jerry Holbert suggesting, in a cartoon about the recent Secret Service debacles, that President Obama would use watermelon-flavored tooth paste. He was kind enough to register a rapid, and typically thoughtful, response.

Here is his Comment of the Day on my post, “9 Observations On The Boston Herald’s “Racist” Cartoon”: Continue reading

9 Observations On The Boston Herald’s “Racist” Cartoon

Obama-Watermelon-1

1. (UPDATE) I’m adding this new #1 right at the beginning—there were originally only 8 observations—because some of the early comments suggest that I over-estimated some of my readers’ scholarship, historical knowledge and/or sensitivity on this issue, so let me be direct:  the reference to any African- American having as affinity to watermelon is about a half-step from calling him or her a nigger, and maybe even closer than that. Clear? This is not a political correctness matter. If the reference is intentional, there can be no debate over whether it is racist or not. It is. The President of the United States should not be subjected to intentional racial slurs.

2. I’m amazed—I just don’t know how this could happen. How could this cartoon make it into print? Cartoonist Jerry Holbert explained that he came up with the idea to use watermelon flavor after finding “kids Colgate watermelon flavor” toothpaste in his bathroom at home. “I was completely naive or innocent to any racial connotations,” Holbert said. “I wasn’t thinking along those lines at all.” Is this possible? In a political cartoonist? On one hand, since the racial connotation is so obvious and so predictably offensive, it seems incredible that a cartoonist for a major daily would dare offer such a cartoon unless he really didn’t perceive the racial stereotype it referenced. On the other, the man is a political cartoonist, not a Japanese soldier who’s been hiding in a cave for decades. How could he not know this? How could his ethics alarms, racial slur alarms, survival alarms not go off?

I don’t get it. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Ken White of Popehat

First Amendment“…Our freedoms are recognized or denied based on court rulings. Our understanding of those court rulings often derives from media coverage of them. When we do a lousy job of covering law, or when we put up with journalists doing so, we’re doing a lousy job as citizens.”

—-Attorney-Blogger Ken White, after meticulously exposing how the media, old and new, completely misrepresented a Texas court’s striking down  an overly broad statute as protecting “upskirt” photographs.

Ken White has delivered another masterpiece, expertly debunking the news media’s criminally ignorant analysis of a Texas Court opinion. I must admit, when I saw the headline “Texas Court: Ban on ‘Upskirt’ Photos Violates First Amendment Rights” and its ilk around the web, I just assumed that reporters were being sensational and dumb as usual, and moved on to other things. Thank goodness Ken was on the case, and properly flagged the danger in lawyers reacting this way. We have a tendency as a profession to think, “Well, there they go again, completely misunderstanding the law, poor dears” when we should be working overtime to set the record straight. I admonish my seminar attendees for doing this regarding the public’s distorted view of legal ethics, and fell into the same trap myself.

Ken’s dissection of the flat-out wrong reporting on this case is frightening: it is clear that most reporters are incapable of understanding what court opinions mean, yet there they are, writing nonsense and making the public more ignorant, not to mention making them think taking upskirt photographs is legal and constitutionally protected.

Counselor White has had a busy year that has kept him from providing his usual volume of daily enlightenment. He is back in top form, and we should all be grateful.