Our problems remain epistemological.

Monday, June 29, 2020

John Roberts' first loyalty

As has become his judicial custom, such as voting with the Supreme Court's liberal bloc in upholding Obamacare's constitutionality with a tortured argument about it being a "tax," Chief Justice John Roberts today joined the liberals in striking down a restrictive Louisiana abortion law via form, not substance.

Image: Anti-abortion advocates wait outside of the Supreme Court for a decision in a Louisiana abortion case on June 29, 2020.

Since his wife is a devout Catholic who once worked as an attorney for Feminists for Life, an anti-abortion feminist group, many reasonably questioned his impartiality when it comes to abortion. But they needn't have worried.

The Chief Justice's first loyalty is to the Supreme Court as an institution. Not to the truth, not to what is right, not even to the Constitution. Here he admits that precedent—even a bad one—is more important than any of those things:

Roberts said he thought the court was wrong to strike down the Texas law, but he voted with the majority because that was the binding precedent. "The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana's law cannot stand under our precedents."

Stare decisis is for suckas, and John Roberts is the biggest one of all.  Roberts is so concerned with the appearance of the Supreme Court as a trusted, apolitical arbiter of constitutional truth that he'll vote with the four liberal ideologues who make no attempt to hide their blatant disregard for it.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Liberals: Then and Now

Liberals from November 2016 until June 2020: The Department of Justice enjoys independence, both legally as well as normatively, from the White House and President. The President should only supervise investigations and prosecutions at the broad policy-making level (via statutes and regulations) and by appointments in the normal course of rotation in office, through retirements and resignations. If the President wants to know the details of ongoing investigations and prosecutions, he can read about them in the newspapers like anyone else. The unitary executive theory is alien to our legal system—a phony doctrine made up by the Federalist Society.

Liberals after June 2020 Publication of the Strzok Memorandum in the Flynn MatterOf course, the President should be apprised of the details of all ongoing investigations—even if they involve the opposition party’s candidate and his confidantes. No one is above the law! The President is supposed to comment about how to staff those investigations. And the Vice President is supposed to put forward novel legal theories (e.g., the Logan Act) in order to help the investigation/prosecution (of his future opponent). These are not disqualifying conflicts: such conflicts are built into the Constitution. The Vice President is part of the Executive Branch and has a role in active Justice Department investigations—even if that involves the opposition. The unitary executive includes the Vice President. The Unitary Executive …

To put it another way ... the active involvement of the Attorney General and Main Justice in overriding the decisions of subordinates and career civil servants is bad, particularly if all the facts are known and when it is done in public. But the Vice Presidents putting forward novel legal theories to move an investigation of the opposition forward is ... perfectly normal ... especially when done in secret. Makes complete sense.

Seth

Seth Barrett Tillman, Liberals: Then and Now, New Reform Club (June 26, 2020, 5:40 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/06/liberals-then-and-now.html>; 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Found Poetry

"Found Poetry" is a something I was taught about in school. The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls. And tenement halls. And there's something to that.



School principal terminated. You poor fool. You poet, you. See my correction below. Tiffany Riley, hit me up.

'I firmly believe that Black Lives Matter, but I DO NOT agree with the coercive measures taken to get to this point across; some of which are falsified in an attempt to prove a point. While I want to get behind BLM, I do not think people should be made to feel they have to choose black race over human race. While I understand the urgency to feel compelled to advocate for black lives, what about our fellow law enforcement? What about all others who advocate for and demand equity for all? Just because I don’t walk around with a BLM sign should not mean I am a racist.'


If only you'd have punctuated like a poet
You'd be getting an award right now instead of a pink slip:



While I want to
by Tiffany Riley


I firmly
believe

that Black Lives Matter,


but I DO NOT agree with the coercive measures taken
to get to this point across;

some of which are falsified in an attempt to prove a point.

While I want to get behind BLM, 

I do not 
think 
people should be made to feel
they have to choose 

black race 
over human 

race.

While I understand the urgency to feel compelled to advocate for black lives, what about our fellow law enforcement? What about all others who advocate for and demand equity for all?

Just because
I don’t walk around 

with a

BLM sign

should not mean 


am 
a 'racist.'


Well done, Tiff. No need to thank me. Next time, run it by me first.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

God bless the name of Washington, that name this land reveres

When the Prince of Wales came o’er, and made a hullabaloo,
Oh, everybody was turned-out in gold and tinsel too;
But then the good old sixty-ninth they didn’t like lords or peers,
They wouldn’t give a damn for Kings, the Irish volunteers!
 
We love the land of liberty, it’s laws we will revere,
“But the devil take the nobility!” says the Irish volunteer.
We love the land of liberty, it’s laws we will revere,
“But the devil take the nobility!” says the Irish volunteer.
 
Now if the traitors in the south should ever cross our roads,
We’ll drive them all to blazes, as Saint Patrick did the toads,
Well give them all short nooses that come just below the ears
Made strong and good from Irish hemp, by Irish volunteers.
 
Then here’s to brave McClellan, whom the army now reveres,
He’ll lead us on to victory, say the Irish volunteers.
Then here’s to brave McClellan, whom the army now reveres,
He’ll lead us on to victory, say the Irish volunteers.
 
Now fill your glasses up, me boys, a toast come drink with me,
May Erin’s harp and Starry Flag united ever be;
May traitors quake, and rebels shake, and tremble in their fears,
When next we meet the Yankee boys, the Irish volunteers.
 
God bless the name of Washington, that name this land reveres,
Success to Meagher and Nugent and the Irish volunteers.
God bless the name of Washington, that name this land reveres,
Success to Meagher and Nugent and the Irish volunteers.
Excerpt from The Irish Volunteer, by Webster, J. P. (composer) and Bennet, S. Fillmore (lyricist), H. M. Higgins, Chicago, 1862.

Mordor, USA

All the ruffians do what he says; and what he says is mostly: hack, burn, and ruin; and now it’s come to killing. There’s no longer even any bad sense in it. They cut down trees and let ’em lie, they burn houses and build no more.
My children's favorite chapters from Tolkien's The Return of the King did not make the cut for the blockbuster film adaptation. After the simple hobbits saved Middle Earth by defeating the evil of the stinking, smoking land of Mordor, they returned home to find the Shire terrorized by the wizard Saruman's ruffians, who had knocked down the hobbits' buildings, trees, and monuments, for no other reason than to remove all markers of memory. For a people without pride of place is less likely to defend that place. The trees of the Shire were not just bark and branches, they are where children climbed and hunted, and under whose leaves the people gathered to enjoy warm August nights. A homeland denuded of monuments is just a zip code, and its people mere names in a phone book. "‘This is worse than Mordor!’ said Sam. ‘Much worse in a way. It comes home to you, as they say; because it is home, and you remember it before it was all ruined.’"

A little bit of Mordor is coming home to us in America. The list of our monuments defaced, displaced, or destroyed in this riot season alone is long and still running, but already includes such figures as Thomas Jefferson (who wrote the Declaration of Independence), George Washington (the father of our country who freed his slaves upon his death), Junipero Serra (who founded the California missions), and Cervantes (who was himself held as a slave). They have toppled Ulysses S. Grant, whom Frederick Douglass eulogized as “a man too broad for prejudice, too humane to despise the humblest, too great to be small at any point. In him the Negro found a protector, the Indian a friend, a vanquished foe a brother, an imperiled nation a savior.” The first American progressive president, Teddy Roosevelt, is no longer welcome. Across the pond, even Winston Churchill is far from safe.

The message is clear. It is not the monuments they hate. It is the people who revere them.

Scanning the comments of this campaign, some of the ruffians -- most of whom appear to be young, white college graduates -- still attempt to justify the monument toppling on the basis that the monuments represent historical figures of impure virtue. Though at the above examples, the strain of this exercise becomes too great. Instead, more radicals are adopting the breezier stance of rejecting the very idea of statues. Why should we have statues at all? they proclaim. In this they are hitting rather closer to the spirit of Mordor: That a people should love their homeland is itself contemptible. It stands against the ruffians' will to rule us. The ruffians slash and burn not because they love something, but because we do.

Our monuments are us. A people who will not object to their monuments being toppled and erased will not very strongly object to themselves being toppled and erased.

Our ruffians and their wizards, produced at our elite institutions, have been miffed at our statues for a long time. In the 1980s, the first prize for a competition to create a monument to the perished soldiers of the Vietnam war was awarded not to an artist, but to an architect, Maya Lin, who had chosen to honor our country's dead with an enormous phone book -- a flat surface coldly listing the names of dead soldiers. The work is a surgical deconstruction of the soldiers' lives and sacrifice: their deaths are worth nothing, and so their lives are worth nothing. For Lin, art was an act of destruction, a gash in the ground, an open wound.


Veterans were so upset by the ghoulishness of the work that sculptor Frederick Hart was commissioned to contribute his work, Three Soldiers, for display at the memorial as well. Lin reportedly was annoyed at having to share the memorial with a sculpture. Amusingly, upon seeing Three Soldiers, Lin asked Hart if his models had complained of any pain. Pain? asked Hart. Yes, when you removed the plaster from their bodies. Apparently, Lin had assumed he'd used wet plaster to cast his models, rather than to actual sculpt the works. Lin was incapable of imagining that remembering a person should require the artist to care about him.

Hart posing with the three soldiers depicted in Three Soldiers.

The statue topplers of 2020 carry on Lin's contempt, and with nearly as much skill.

Americans love their statues. They love their history. They love their country. They love it not because it is perfect, but because it is theirs. The conceit of the monument topplers is that a country is just another consumer product. "The assumption," G.K. Chesterton once put it, is that one may criticize a place "as if he were house-hunting, as if he were being shown over a new suite of apartments." This is nonsense, because:
no man is in that position. A man belongs to this world before he begins to ask if it is nice to belong to it. He has fought for the flag, and often won heroic victories for the flag long before he has ever enlisted. To put shortly what seems the essential matter, he has a loyalty long before he has any admiration.
And because we love our country, we love those who founded it, and those who defended it. We love them not because they are perfect, for if they were perfect, they would be imposters -- or we would. They were not some alien race. They were flawed humans, as are we. When we condemn the imperfections in others, we condemn ourselves.  We accept these flaws, Chesterton said, not out of optimism, but out of patriotism. "It is a matter of primary loyalty. The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it." In the final chapters of The Return of the King not depicted in the film, Merry and Pippin, who had been louts and miscreants before following Sam and Frodo into war merely for the sake of friendship, returned skilled and courageous warriors, capable of raising their Shirefolk into a successful campaign to rout the ruffians and run them out of their homes. Through their love of their friends and their homeland, Merry and Pippin attained marshal virtues, and became unlikely heroes.

Not only do we not turn out our monuments, we do not even turn out our topplers. And for the same reason. For in them moves the same spirit, though twisted and corrupted by vice and viciousness, that moves in us. As our monuments teach us, moments of honor shine even through sinful and wretched creatures, and just as the attainment of virtue does not secure against decline into vice, even one who is mired in vice may yet be saved, and bring honor to himself and his people. In The Return of the King, when the hobbits overthrow Saruman and turn him out of the Shire, Frodo stops his angry Shirefolk from killing him. For "[h]e was great once," Frodo tells them, "of a noble kind that we should not dare to raise our hands against. He is fallen, and his cure is beyond us; but I would still spare him, in the hope that he may find it." If we reject the possibility of redemption in who helped create and shape our country, do we not reject the possibility of redemption in the country itself?

To keep the great deeds of our history alive was the last charge Frodo gave to Sam: to "keep alive the memory of the age that is gone, so that people will remember the Great Danger and so love their beloved land all the more."

Leading up to his first inaugural, President-elect Barack Obama said, "What is required is a new declaration of independence," through "an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels." He went on to implore: "Let's all of us do our part to rebuild this country." But our heroes are created out of flawed mediums. And that flawed medium is the message. Obama would write our ideals on lifeless stone, as Lin wrote the names of our war dead, while frowning at the statue of the soldiers who remind us of the flesh and blood who lived, and who fought, and who died, for their country, and for us. If you wish to destroy the message, start by destroying the medium -- the stories and images of the lives who saved us from the Great Dangers to secure our beloved land.

Those who topple our statues have in mind to topple us. We must rouse ourselves against them.






Saturday, June 20, 2020

The more things change...

Marvel Comics, circa 1970. It was a trap, Hulk. If only you had smashed them all.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

More statues, forever



Image



The left's race outrage at inanimate objects in America has spread to England. First Winston Churchill, now one Cecil Rhodes, the colonialist who was perhaps the godfather of the apartheid regime in Rhodesia.


How brave. Statues can't fight back. The left is always tearing stuff down and calling it "progress." But we can learn nothing from history by erasing it. Instead of tearing down the statue of Cecil Rhodes, they should erect one of the risible tyrant Robert Mugabe as a study in, oh, let's call it Comparative Racism.

                                        Image


What I would expect such a study to find is that men and peoples are pretty much the same all over the world once the tables are turned. The oppressed become the oppressors. We become what we hate. A lesson perhaps far more instructional than any given set of sins and grievances.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Joe Versus the Volcano

This summer, while staying home because of a disgraced scientist's advice, and journalists who continue urging that advice, consider enjoying a whimsically portentous film:
Joe Versus the Volcano. Film, 1990. A doctor diagnoses a rare disease in a depressed patient and suggests he sacrifice his life by jumping into a volcano on the small island of Waponi Woo to appease its superstitious inhabitants. After leaving his job and friends behind, however, the patient falls in love with a woman who reveals the doctor is a huckster hired by the Waponis.
And then, go outside and enjoy your summer. Don't worry. The Waponis will still be there when you get back.

Does Anyone Remember?




Does anyone remember those days when all the great-&-good criticized Trump for having doubts about one of his Supreme Court nominees? Do you remember when Trump gave thought to withdrawing a nomination, but his advisers prevailed upon him to go forward?

Does anyone remember Trump stating back in 2016 that gay-rights rulings were settled-law, but abortion rulings were not? If you are surprised by Gorsuch, then you were not listening.

Seth Barrett Tillman, Does Anyone Remember?, New Reform Club (June 16, 2020, 6:55 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/06/does-anyone-remember.html>; 


Monday, June 15, 2020

‘The Train’: When filmmakers and their public understood it was wrong to destroy remembrances of things past



The Train (1964)

When filmmakers and their public understood it was wrong to destroy remembrances of things past:

Labiche (played by Burt Lancaster): Now we are three. One, two, three…. We started with 18 [men]. Like your paintings, mademoiselle, we couldn’t replace them. For certain things, we take the risk. But I won’t waste lives on paintings.

Mlle. Villard: But they wouldn’t be wasted. Excuse me. I know that’s a terrible thing to say. But those paintings are part of France. The Germans want to take them away. They’ve taken our land, our food. They live in our houses. And now they’re trying to take our art. This beauty, this vision of life born out of France. Our special vision. Our trust. We hold it in trust. Don’t you see? For everyone. This is our pride. What we create and hold for the world. There are worse things to risk your life for than that.

See <https://www.scripts.com/script/the_train_21496>.





Seth

Seth Barrett Tillman, ‘The Train’: When filmmakers and their public understood it was wrong to destroy remembrances of things past, New Reform Club (June 15, 2020, 8:55 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/06/the-train-when-filmmakers-and-their.html>;


Welcome Instapundit readers! My co-bloggers do good workso have a look around New Reform Club



Law school grad Chris Cuomo gets a 1st Amendment schooling


The "Ramen King" is now a viral superstar [over 6 illion views!] as CNN's "Fredo" gets his:

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Keeping the Home Fires Burning

The Union attack on Atlanta, November 1864:

Image from Gone with the Wind


Image via Reuters

Five years ago I wrote this:
Gone With the Wind is still Americans' all-time favorite film, for example, despite being made a 'hundred years' ago in 1939 about the Civil War a 'hundred years' before that. The themes of community, honor, culture, love, war, and loss of the 19th century still connect through a story told in the 20th century to us now in the 21st. It's a great service movie-making does to put the history of each preceding generation on screen, to give a sense of our continuity and proximity.
Amazon recently removed Gone with the Wind from its streaming service. The film's themes of community, honor, culture, love, war, and loss, from Amazon's perspective, are no longer licit in the 21st century.

But the burning: it seems we will stick with the burning.

Friday, June 12, 2020

George Yeaman in Spielberg’s Lincoln





SEWARD’S OFFICE, STATE DEPARTMENT
Seward sits at his grand desk, looking on with an anxious scowl. Lincoln sits on the edge of Seward’s desk. Yeaman sits in a chair facing him.

GEORGE YEAMAN:
I can’t vote for the [13th] amendment, Mr. Lincoln.

LINCOLN:
I saw a barge once, Mr. Yeaman, filled with colored men in chains, heading down the Mississippi to the New Orleans slave markets. It sickened me, ’n more than that, it brought a shadow down, a pall around my eyes. (BEAT)

Slavery troubled me, as long as I can remember, in a way it never troubled my father, though he hated it. In his own fashion. He knew no smallholding dirt farmer could compete with slave plantations. He took us out from Kentucky to get away from ’em. He wanted Indiana kept free. He wasn’t a kind man, but there was a rough moral urge for fairness, for freedom in him. I learnt that from him, I suppose, if little else from him. We didn’t care for one another, Mr. Yeaman.

GEORGE YEAMAN (EMBARRASSED):
I ... Well, I’m sorry to hear that—

LINCOLN:
Lovingkindness, that most ordinary thing, came to me from other sources. I’m grateful for that.

GEORGE YEAMAN:
I hate it, too, sir, slavery, but—but we’re entirely unready for emancipation. There’s too many questions—

LINCOLN (LAUGHS):
We’re unready for peace too, ain’t we? When it comes, it’ll present us with conundrums and dangers greater than any we’ve faced during the war, bloody as it’s been. We’ll have to extemporize and experiment with what it is when it is. Lincoln moves from the desk to take the seat beside Yeaman, no longer towering over him. He leans forward and rests a hand on Yeaman’s knee.

LINCOLN (CONT’D):
I read your speech, George. Negroes and the vote, that’s a puzzle.

GEORGE YEAMAN:
No, no, but, but, but—But Negroes can’t, um, vote, Mr. Lincoln. You’re not suggesting that we enfranchise colored people[?]

LINCOLN:
I’m asking only that you disenthrall yourself from the slave powers. I’ll let you know when there’s an offer on my desk for surrender. There’s none before us now. What’s before us now, that’s the vote on the Thirteenth Amendment. It’s going to be so very close. You see what you can do. [Lincoln leaves Yeaman, considering.]


Seth Barrett Tillman, George Yeaman in Spielberg’s Lincoln, New Reform Club (June 12, 2020, 4:24 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/06/george-yeaman-in-spielbergs-lincoln.html>; 




The Sopranos and Civilization


What does it say that the Sopranos and their crew are the defenders of civilization?: 



Seth Barrett Tillman, The Sopranos and Civilization, New Reform Club (June 12, 2020, 3:21 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/06/the-sopranos-and-civilization.html>;

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Dark Shapes in the Woods

Heather Mac Donald, nonfiction author of The War on Cops, on Dennis Prager's radio program, on the subject of the absence of law enforcement, June 10, 2020:
The human spirit, left to its own devices, without the correction of law and order, can be very, very dark, and very, very depraved, and there is a lust for violence. You let that free and you have no consequences, and it's going to be threatening from here on out.
J.R.R. Tolkien, fiction author of The Return of the King, on the subject of the absence of law enforcement, 1955:
You see, we’re not used to such troubles; and the Rangers have all gone away, folk tell me. I don’t think we’ve rightly understood till now what they did for us. For there’s been worse  than robbers about. Wolves were howling round the fences last winter. And there’s dark  shapes in the woods, dreadful things that it makes the blood run cold to think of. It’s been very disturbing, if you understand me.’ 
Peace and order had its time. But we have grown restless. And foolish. What are the dark, dreadful shapes in the woods, after all?

We are soon to meet them.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Skin in the Game


How many of the group—George Bush, Colin Powell, James Mattis, and Mitt Romneyenjoy Secret Service protection or have safe rooms in their homes linked to private security? How many live in neighborhoods where riots destroyed life & property? 

If you have no skin in the game, I dont care what you think.

Seth Barrett Tillman, Skin in the Game, New Reform Club (June 8, 2020, 10:41 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/06/skin-in-game.html>. 



Sunday, June 07, 2020

What Is Protected Speech? Call Your Doctor

During the past decade, there have been frequent stories about purported clashes between free speech and safety. In recent preceding decades, by contrast, the debate over free speech had concerned propriety. The libertarian hero had been smut-peddler Larry Flynt. The conservative villain had been Jerry Falwell. The libertarian won. The lesson we brought with us into the last decade was that the vileness and viciousness of a message -- or of its author, for that matter -- could furnish no basis for censorship. The right to spread offensive messages could be limited only by safety concerns.

It is little surprise, then, that we have seen critics of speech frame their positions in terms of safety.

Let us review how we Americans have been approaching the question of how to strike a balance between speech and safety. 

The decade beginning around 2010 brought us hundreds of examples of college speaking engagements being cancelled due to perceived safety threats. These episodes are sometimes referred to as "disinvitation season." Freedom for Individual Rights in Education has a comprehensive database. Here is a small sample.
These speakers and messengers are academics, public officials, medical professionals, students, and popular authors and pundits. None of these speakers promote the use of violence. In some cases, their messages were censored because a critic threatened violence, though it does not appear those threats are often serious or credible. In most cases, rather, their messages were censored because one or more critics complained they were extremely discomfited by their messages, and their discomfiture arose to the level of violence, or unhealthfulness, thus rendering the speech unsafe.

Now let us come to the more recent past of early May 2020. In March 2020 jurisdictions throughout the United States imposed quarantines in efforts to slow the spread of the Covid-19 disease. In the ensuing weeks and months, however, many people had suffered serious negative effects from the economic downturn and social isolation, including not a few reports of suicide, medical neglect, and other unintended consequences, sometimes referred to as "deaths of despair." Moreover, reports from jurisdictions without quarantines showed comparable or even favorable results could be obtained by loosening restrictions. By late April and early May, protests had erupted demanding that officials lift or loosen the quarantines.

Here are a couple of examples of how journalists and public health officials reacted to this exercise of the right to speech:
  • Via PBS, "In clamor to reopen, many African Americans feel their safety is ignored": "Many African Americans watching protests calling for easing restrictions meant to slow the spread of the new coronavirus see them as one more example of how their health, their safety and their rights just don’t seem to matter." "[M]any African Americans say the fact that protesters are advocating a riskier path reveals a privileged position...."
  • Via WaPo: "White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said protesters’ disregard of social distancing is “devastatingly worrisome.”"
Only about a month later, however, we were provided with another example of a contest between speech and safety. Nationwide protests erupted following the May 25 death of George Floyd. The protests go on as of June 6. In many cases, the protests turned into riots, which have resulted in deaths, injuries, and property damage, the tallies of which are still unknown.

Here are some examples how journalists and public health officials reacted to this exercise of the right to speech:
  • NY Times: Despite "arriv[ing] at a particularly anxious moment," protests have been "positively liberating": "People ... have surged to the streets -- for some, mask be damned -- to be part of something."
  • NY Times again: "Mr. de Blasio may have the power to erect such arbitrary barriers to protest; he clearly does not have the wisdom to refrain from using it. So long as demonstrations are peaceful, the mayor and the police should stop and listen to the legitimate concerns of those they serve."
  • Guardian editorial: "The word 'violence' is going to be used a lot ... [s]o it's going to be important to be clear about who is violence and what violence is." The way that "authorities often respond in an emergency [is] not by protecting and aiding the public but by seeking to control and repress us," referred to as "elite panic."
  • San Francisco Chronicle: "But public health experts like Swartzberg of UC Berkeley acknowledge that in a time of national civic unrest and deplorable social injustice, the drive to speak out may supersede the desire to lie low and stay safe." "Stephen Shortell, a public health expert with UC Berkeley .... recognized that for people addressing grave social issues, public demonstrations may rightfully take priority over public and personal health."
  • Washington Times: "Public health experts support George Floyd protests, oppose coronavirus shutdown rallies" reporting on "An open letter signed by 1,288 “public health officials, infectious disease professionals, and community stakeholders”, which states:
“However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission,” the letter continued. “We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States.” ....
“This should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders,” the letter said. “Those actions not only oppose public health interventions, but are also rooted in white nationalism and run contrary to respect for Black lives.”
In addition, “Protests against systemic racism, which fosters the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on Black communities and also perpetuates police violence, must be supported.” .... 
“A public health response to these demonstrations is also warranted, but this message must be wholly different from the response to white protesters resisting stay-home orders,” the letter said. “Infectious disease and public health narratives adjacent to demonstrations against racism must be consciously anti-racist, and infectious disease experts must be clear and consistent in prioritizing an anti-racist message.”
So if you are interested in exercising your right to free speech and assembly but are unsure of the extent of your rights, here is the advice suggested by recent events in the field: Skip the lawyer, and see a doctor instead.


Thursday, June 04, 2020

Friendly Cautionary Advice to Journalists Sourcing Stories from Lawsuit Allegations

NPR's Madeleine Brand reports, in a piece titled "White supremacy groups try to infiltrate recent protests and influence the narrative," that "It turns out that some of the groups involved in Charlottesville are also behind the violence in today’s protests."

Oh, my! That is rather a twist! And from a reputable institution as NPR surely we can assume it is not based on mere blather. So from where is the piece sourced?
The nonprofit Integrity First for America is suing the organizers of the Charlottesville “Unite The Right” rally for conspiring to commit violence. KCRW hears from the nonprofit’s executive director Amy Spitalnick.
The rest of the piece, an interview with Ms. Spitalnick -- apparently Mayor DiBlasio's former spokesperson -- involves Ms. Spitalnick describing the allegations in her group's lawsuit. From what is reported in the NPR piece, the lawsuit alleges that a white supremacist group sent a tweet urging violence and looting, and that the tweet went viral before the Twitter account was suspended. The group also sent a similar message on another social messaging platform called Telegram. The groups want to "spur race war and bring about this collapse of society that they so crave." The groups have a very shadowy structure and operate clandestinely, but what is known is that many of its members wear Hawaiian shirts. But as Ms. Spitalnick concedes, "[t]here's so many details that are still unknown."

Are allegations in a lawsuit a credible journalistic source? Be aware that litigants often file frivolous lawsuits. Just last month, a California Court of Appeal imposed sanctions against an attorney for filing a frivolous lawsuit alleging an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that the Mormon Church was out to get his client. (Brown v. Butler (Cal. Ct. App. May 19, 2020) D075348 (unpublished).) The Mormon Church, the attorney alleged, also operated clandestinely, using for its ends such figures as male prostitutes, pimps, devil worshippers, gang members, bathhouse operators, and lynch mobs. Obviously, there were many details that were still unknown.

I did not find anything in Ms. Brand's reporting that would allow the reader to determine whether the lawsuit that is the source of her reporting contains allegations that were any more serious or credible than those for which the California Court of Appeal recently issued sanctions.

How can NPR's audience be assured they are being provided a report on a white supremacist conspiracy that is any more credible than a Church of Mormon conspiracy?

"Eat the Rich": Protests and the Trump Realignment

Recent vandalism on Rodeo Drive:


From Wikipedia:

Of the 19,696,371 California voters registered for the November 6, 2018, general election:[3]

  • 43.5% were Democrats
  • 24.0% were Republicans
According to the LA Times: "Democrats haven’t wielded this much power in 136 years."
Democrats will occupy roughly three-fourths of the seats in both legislative houses. It takes only a two-thirds supermajority to pass tax increases and place constitutional amendments on the ballot. A three-fourths mega-majority is new territory.
Query: When protesters scrawl "Eat the Rich" on buildings in a far-left state dominated by a "mega-majority" of Democrats, who is upset with whom?