From The “Appeal to Authority” Files: Why Should We Care What John Paul Stevens Thinks Now?

Already, the mainstream news media is starting to re-gurgitate retired SCOTUS justice John Paul Stevens’ opinion on gun control, as related once again in his newly published memoir. They seem to think this old news is new ammunition  in its war against gun rights in alliance with the Democratic Party. (Note: ethical journalists are not supposed to be allied with any party. I may not have mentioned this in the last 24 hours.)

Bloviating about Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 decision holding that the Second Amendment created an individual right to bear arms, Stevens calls the ruling “unquestionably the most clearly incorrect decision” rendered while he was on the Court. And this proves—what? Stevens dissented in that case. His view lost. The fact that he dissented was significant when he was on the Court. That as a retired justice a decade later (who is commenting on current Court rulings from the sidelines more openly than any previous justice, a breach of professionalism and ethics) he really, really thinks he was right though a majority of his colleagues on the Court did not, should be at most a footnote somewhere on the ABA Journal’s gossip page. Instead, we will see it everywhere as “new evidence” and authority that there really isn’t a right to bear arms.

Was there widespread publicity when retired Justice Byron White wrote that his dissent in Roe v. Wade was right and the decision was wrong? No, for two reasons: White observed the traditional respect for the Court  requiring that ex-Justices not snipe at past decisions after they retire., and nobody in the news media would try to hype a dissent against abortion rights.

This doesn’t even get to the sad reality that Stevens’ arguments regarding gun rights are juvenile and emotional, essentially belonging to the popular “Do something!” ilk. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/17/ 2018: For Whom The Rex Tolls…

Good morning!

1. Another “growing crisis” to fear: Rorschach innuendo that people can interpret to confirm their own biases... Deposed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told graduates in his commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, that American democracy was threatened by a growing “crisis of ethics and integrity”:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom. When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth even on what may seem the most trivial matters, we go wobbly on America.”

Verdict: True.

The New York Times, without hesitation, calls Tillerson’s remarks a “veiled rebuke” of President Trump, and “veiled” doesn’t even make it into the headline.

Why isn’t this just as much of a “veiled rebuke” of Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama (“If you like your plan…”), James Comey, Andrew Cuomo, Elizabeth Warren (I’d say her continuing Native American lie is a perfect example of a trivial matter that matters), Chris Christie, Senator Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Rep. Nancy Pelosi ( The U.S. Supreme Court is “five guys who start determining what contraceptions are legal.”, “I don’t know who (Jonathan Gruber) is,”  “In the first year of the Obama administration, more jobs were created in the private sector than in the eight years of the Bush administration.”…and so on, and on…), Newt Gingrich, Senator Richard Blumenthal, new head of the NRA Oliver North, and many, many others in both parties?

You know why: the media’s agenda is focused only on denigrating Trump. As for Tillerson, his statement is consistent with what The Ethics Scoreboard and Ethics Alarms have been trying to explain for nearly two decades now, with one major, ethical difference: I don’t use weasel words and innuendo, and Tillerson did. If the ex-Secretary of State has a whistle to blow, let him blow it, and not litter the scene with whistles so anyone can blow them to their own ends. Statements like his are worthless without specifics, and merely arm partisans, hacks and character assassins.

I also don’t accept ethics lectures from oil company executives. I’m funny that way.

2. And speaking of a crisis of ethics and integrity…and trustworthiness…Here is the New York Times correction yesterday on a story attacking a piece on Foundation for Defense of Democracies chief executive Mark Dubowitz:

I don’t know what the maximum number of errors in a single story is that can be corrected before a responsible reader has to say, “The hell with this rag; I’m going back to the Weekly Reader!”, but whatever the limit is, this easily exceeds it. The New Yorker used to publish such corrections  as humor, except the excerpt would be from The Hooterville Register, not the New York Times. Don’t you love the equivocal “referred inaccurately” weasel words? Saying that a salary that is actually in line with similar salaries in the field is twice such salaries isn’t “inaccurate,” it is a gross and inexcusable mistake.

Gee, I wonder if Rex was rebuking the leading news media…. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/14/2018: The “Blotto From A Sleepless Night Fuming About Nobody Stopping That Puppy From Being Stuffed In The United Overhead Luggage Bin” Edition

Good Morning, United!

Where’s that whimpering sound coming from?

Grrrrrrr.

1 Don’t make America stupid, ABC. The new ABC legal drama “For The People” premiered last night, and lost me forever. I can’t trust the writers. In the final moments of the episode, a veteran female defense lawyer was consoling a young lawyer who was upset after losing a case. The older lawyer evoked the memory of a 1951 rookie for the New York Giants, who went hitless in his first Major League games and was devastated. But his manager put him in the line-up again, and he hit a home run in his first at bat, and never stopped hitting.

“Ah,” said the young lawyer, “Willie Mays. The greatest player who ever lived.” The older lawyer nodded sagely.

By no measure was Willie Mays the greatest baseball player. Is this racial politics by series creator Shonda Rhimes? I assume so: there is no other plausible explanation. The odds of two randomly selected baseball fans asserting that Mays was the greatest baseball player would only be more than miniscule if anyone who knows baseball believed that. Willie was the greatest centerfielder of all time, the greatest African-American player of all time, quite possibly the most charismatic and entertaining player to watch of all time, and very possibly the second most gifted baseball player of all time. But he wasn’t the greatest. The best player by every measure, statistical, modern analytics, WAR, JAWS, OPS, contemporary reports and common sense was, of course, Babe Ruth. He was the greatest hitter who ever lived, a great pitcher before that, and no athlete in any sport ever dominated it like Babe did in the Twenties.

Now, any individual can hold an eccentric opinion that Willie was better. But that was not how the assertion was presented. It was presented as an accepted fact that two random baseball fans agreed upon. This is irresponsible misrepresentation. I was trying to think of an equivalent: I think it’s like a TV show having someone quote the Declaration of Independence, and a listener then  say, “Thomas Jefferson. Our greatest President!” as the other individual nods sagely.

2. Four Regans, or, if you prefer, Linda Blair Heads.This is the new Ethics Alarms graphic for unethical media spin. The number of Regans can range from one to four, with four Regans signifying “spinning so furiously her head might fall off.” (If you don’t get the reference, you are seriously deficient in cultural literacy.) The four Regans go to the polar news media spinning yesterday’s special election in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Democrat Conor Lamb appears to have narrowly won a seat in a Republican stronghold, though the race is still too close to call. Continue reading