Greek Easter Ethics Warm-Up: Authority, Causation, Credibility And Dead Ethics Alarms

Christos Anesti!

…as my Greek-American mother used to greet us every Greek Easter morn. You were supposed to respond in kind, but my father’s Greek pronunciation was always so  hilarious that I don’t recall that he ever did.

1. Anthony Napolitano and the appeal to authority. Fox analyst “Judge” Napolitano (you’re not supposed to call yourself “judge” after you stop being a judge, but never mind) is suddenly being hailed as a definitive legal authority because he has “broken ranks” (as the liberal websites put it) to argue that President Trump obstructed justice based on the Mueller report. Virtually nothing Napolitano said or opined on prior to this was ever treated by these same sudden fans as anything but the meanderings of a crank, but “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” as someone once said in Sanskrit.

I would never appeal to Napolitano’s authority, though he is far from a crank. He was indeed a lower court judge in New Jersey, he has taught at a law school, and he has written many books. He is not a conservative or a Republican but a libertarian. Like Ron Paul and his son Senator Rand, Napolitano’s ideology is such that he arrives at positions that make it impossible for me to trust his reasoning processes. Notably, he doesn’t think Abraham Lincoln should have fought the Civil War or abolished slavery, saying that it would have been better to allow slavery to peter out peacefully without government intervention. I wonder how the slaves would have felt about that?

He also believes that human life should have full legal rights at conception, and that abortion ought to be outlawed completely. Well, both of those positions—he has others equally extreme—mean to me that as smart as he may be, I don’t know what kind of extremist bats are flying around in the man’s belfry, so while I believe his arguments  on obstruction should be judged on their objective merits, that fact that he’s the one making them do not and should not enhance their persuasiveness.

2. Trump Tweets a tweet, the President claimed that Napolitano asked him to appoint the “Judge” to the Supreme Court, and that his much-publicized obstruction claim is Napolitano’s revenge for the President refusing.

Here the President might learn the lesson of what happens when you have earned the reputation of saying whatever you feel is advantageous or convenient at a particular time, regardless of reality. That’s quite a damning accusation, but who knows, or will ever know, if it’s true? Among the ruthless leadership tips to issue from the lips of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in the remake of “Scarface” was this gem:

“All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don’t break them for no one. Do you understand?”

The President has the balls, perhaps, but his word is useless. That’s a terrible handicap for any leader. He might, however, claim another one of Tony’s statements: “I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”

Tony’s lines were written by Oliver Stone.

3. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. That’s Latin for one of the classic reasoning fallacies, “After this, ergo because of this.” Kentucky Governor Matt Bevins, a Republican, has shown his affection for the false causation theory before, and most recently used it to blame a teacher sick-out for higher pay for an incident where a 7-year-old  girl was seriously injured when her 11-year-old brother accidentally shot her. “A little girl was shot, seven years old, by another kid. Because they were somewhere that they weren’t intended to be,” Bevin said.

He’s an idiot. Yes, the sick-out was responsible for the fact that the children were at home rather than in school, but the fact that the home had a gun in it, that the gun was loaded, that the gun was able to be accessed by the children, that the boy hadn’t been trained not to handle guns, and that an 11 year old and a 7 year old were at home without adult supervision all are what the law calls “intervening causation.”

My favorite intervening cause tale was the real wrongful death lawsuit against a state highway authority for a missing detour sign, which caused a motorist to head down a road with construction perils abounding. The motorist was killed….because a plane crashed into his car. “But he would have been there for the plane to crash into if he hadn’t gone down the wrong road because of the missing sign!”


4. Nah, the progressive movement isn’t sliding into anti-Semitism! Not long before a synagogue was attacked in California, the New York Times ran this cartoon in its international edition:


No, of course the 19-year-old shooter didn’t see it, and we don’t yet know what his motive was. However I will expect ( cough) Democrats and their lap-dog media to apply the same logic to this shooting that it has tried to use against President Trump on the occasion of every other “hate-shooting.” That logic would be ‘the shooting was sparked by irresponsible rhetoric from…er, us.”

Democrats have cravenly refused to reject the inflammatory anti-Israel and anti-Jewish remarks by Rep. Omar, and the mainstream media have mostly declined to note and condemn the rising anti-Semitism on the Left.  The cartoon is signature significance, and the Times’ retraction note proves it:

Note that there is no apology in sight, nor a clear statement that the cartoon was unfair and untrue. True statements can be offensive, and it can be “an error in judgment” to show the world what you really think.

Error in judgement! If the Times ran a cartoon showing Barack Obama in a minstrel outfit eating a watermelon, would anyone accept that excuse? That wasn’t an error in judgment; it was a publication whose anti-Semitism ethics alarms are as dead as Eichmann.  Heck, even Common Sense alarms would have alerted the Times that the cartoon was unpublishable: the paper has been enabling “the resistance” strategy of calling President Trump a Nazi, and now it shows the President wearing a yarmulke?  As Glenn Reynold likes to quip, “Worst Nazi President Ever!”

Dominic Green suggested an alternative apology in The Spectator:

We ran a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon. At a time when anti-Jewish violence and incitement is at levels not seen since 1945, we chose to place gutter racism on our pages. We did this because plenty of our editors share the prejudice of this cartoon; if in doubt, look at our unsigned editorials.

We’re so soaked in this that none of us thought that it might be an error to publish a cartoon with clear precursors in fascist, communist, Arab nationalist and Islamist propaganda. Rather than explain this away in the passive tense, we’re going to name the editors who signed off on this cartoon, and fire them.



19 thoughts on “Greek Easter Ethics Warm-Up: Authority, Causation, Credibility And Dead Ethics Alarms

    • “Jack wrote this column” is active tense. Jack, the doer, is the subject of the verb. “This column was written by Jack” is an example of passive tense – Jack, who did the writing, is not the subject of the verb, the blog is. Note that the “by Jack” can be dropped, leaving us with a complete thought – the column was indeed written, but we’re left none the wiser regarding who to credit – or in some cases, blame.

      This is the problem with the non-apology by the Times; they repeatedly say “the cartoon was published” or “the cartoon was offensive” or “the decision to publish it was an error.” None of the statement by the Times actually names or indicates anyone who holds any responsibility for this cartoon being published. Who made the decision?

      Overall, this is just a slightly more direct way to disassociate the guilty from accountability for their actions. For another, slightly different example, see the excrable “some people did something.”

  1. 3. Wasn’t this a house of cards episode in season one where he was fighting with the teacher union? I think it’s almost identical (been awhile). I wonder if the governor is taking his cues from TV.

  2. As for Napolitano’s legal theories.

    Alan Dershowitz has staked out the claim for no obstruction. No more appearance money from Fox can be obtained and the other channels would not offer a pro Trump side.

    Napolitano ( a Fox staple) takes the opposite side because now he has multiple stations that will pay him to bloviate.

    Every debate has two sides and lawyers will advocate when there is money to be had. I have no idea if Napolitano actually believes his tripe.

    Just like we can’t say a lawyer who defends a pedophile is supporting pedophilia we cannot say Napolitano supports the theories he is pushing to make a buck.

    • We can’t? Then who’s his client?!?

      Yes, we agree that a lawyer who is representing a client is acting on behalf of the best interests of that client and cannot infer actual, personal support of that client’s cause.

      But this is not that. This is Napolitano going on TV and saying “This is what I think. It’s my opinion.”

      Apples and Orange Man.


  3. I can’t believe that the anti-Semitic stuff has returned like some kind of moral ebola. I’d thought it was something isolated to a rural part of Spain while a friend lived there a few years with her husband ten years ago. The US was too much a melting pot to forget that lesson.

    This would have been unthinkable across the board for any political party when I was young and there were so many still alive from WW2. I remember seeing documentaries on the ghettos and camps, and that Anne Frank was a serious topic at school several separated years. My liberal teacher made sure of it.

    What kind of insanity has led them to not just a small oopsie, but expose this deep flaw that old Democrat leaders would strongly attack? This was a signature lesson of the 20th century, forgotten so few years in the 21st. How can they even think to claim any moral superiority in supporting disenfranchised minorities, when Jews have been disenfranchised in every way and systematically threatened more harshly? Do they fail to understand that Anti-Semitism is the hallmark of Nazis, which progressives love to accuse their detractors of being? Do not pretend to scold me about the mote in my eye, when they have a redwood in theirs.

    • What kind of insanity has led them to not just a small oopsie, but expose this deep flaw that old Democrat leaders would strongly attack?

      I thik you’re mistaken about the history of the democrat party. They’ve always been the home of the racists, anti-Semitism included. FDR knew about the Holocaust and refused to help.

      The Democrats are the pandering party. They say they are for minorities, but only so long as they stay in their place and vote right.

  4. Okay, playing dumb more than playing devil’s advocate, but what EXACTLY about this cartoon is anti Semitic?

    You have a guy walking a dog.

    Nothing yet.

    The guy is Trump. The dog is Netanyahu.

    Okay, subservient Jew? Jews are dogs?

    Is that it? This very day, I saw a cartoon of Trump drawn as Putin’s poodle.

    So, without more, not convinced this is it.

    At any rate, as Trump is portrayed as blind (it appears so anyway), it is Trump who is being led around by Netanyahu.

    Far from being anti Semitic, this is run of the mill Putin poodle Trump-bashing, though the dog role happens to be reversed in this instance.

    The Star of David name-tag? No, but for that, I might not have recognized that the dog was Netanyahu.

    There does not seem to be anything obviously anti Semitic about the way Netanyahu’s face was drawn.

    That Netanyahu was a dachshund, a German dog, therefore a Nazi? A couple points: calling Betanyahu a Nazi does not seem particularly anti Semitic per se; dachshunds don’t seem as Nazi-ish as German Shepherds or Dobermans.

    The mere fact that it was a dachshund, also known as a “wiener” dog; as Trump is not Jewish, the wieners he eats are probably made of pork; pork is not Kosher; therefore, Netanyahu is a filthy Jew!

    Is that it?

    Trump’s yarmulke? I honestly don’t get this detail. Trump isn’t Jewish, and it is not necessary to the point that Trump wear one, unless I am missing something here?

    Hmm, could it be the fact that the New York Times admitted it was anti Semitic? I don’t generally trust their judgment on such matters. I see no reason to start now.

    Criticism of the State of Israel is anti Semitic by definition? I don’t agree with the proposition and I suspect the New York Times doesn’t either.

    Looking at it one last time: I am not seeing it. What am I missing?


    • Well, the easiest answer is that portraying Jews as dogs is an anti-Semitic slur older than Hitler. Palestinian leaders have used “son of a dog” to characterize Israeli leaders; Lena Dunham was an example of a celebrity who got in trouble calling Jewish men “dogs.” In general, dehumanizing an ethnic group that has been exterminated based on the slur that they were sub-human is, or should be, obviously a slur. Then, using a Jewish symbol like a yarmulke to denigrate the President implies that being Jewish is shameful. Then there’s putting the real Jew on a leash, again, like a subservient animal.

      I think it’s an undeniably anti-Semitic cartoon. The Times just said it was “offensive.”

  5. I will respond only to the NY Times anti-Semitic ‘cartoon’ – using the term loosely.

    Does no one know any history at all? That, for example, the English Jews funded the Crusades, and when the king couldn’t pay back his debt, he simply exiled all Jews from the country to Europe? Hence, an early forced diaspora of Jews.

    Do others really believe that anti-Semitism was grown by Hitler and ended in the Holocaust? Not know that FDR’s anti-Semitic State Department refused political asylum of Jews from Hitler’s Germany? (See the story of the ship St. Louis – full of fleeing Jews that went from port to port in the US and were never allowed entry.)

    I honestly believe that anti-Semitism is basic insecurity on the part of other religions and cultures. “Rabbi” means “teacher,” and the Jewish culture has taken learning and excelling a basic tenet. So yes, there are lots of Jewish doctors, lawyers, businessmen, because achievement is what the culture expects.

    (As an aside, there is no proselytizing by Jews. Other religions require it, but Jews are trying to preserve what they have, not “turn” others to expand their ranks. This should be considered by those who adhere to the moronic conspiracy theory that Jews want to rule the world.)

    I have the greatest respect for the State of Israel. The turn-around – in a single generation – from ‘putting up’ to ‘fighting back’ is awe-inspiring.

    You can denigrate Jews if you like: to me, all that means is that your own religion and your own culture knows its own ethic is flawed, and in desperation, you denigrate Jews and foster hatred.

    PS I am a lapsed Methodist, and well-versed in the hypocrisy of that particular denomination.

  6. 1. Napolitano

    My thoughts exactly. I really can’t improve on it except for a hearty “Amen!”

    Yes, Mr. Wise, I indeed said that, and while you’d like to have me in a padded cell, I’d have you in a pine box if you try to put me there.

    2. Trump

    So tragically Trumpian, punching down like a purblind fool.

    3. Matt Bevin

    Not exactly an adherent to the Socratic method, is he? Or any method that is discernible to a reasonable mind, I guess.

    4. Progressive Antisemitism

    That wasn’t an error in judgment; it was a publication whose anti-Semitism ethics alarms are as dead as Eichmann.

    Ouch! That’s gonna leave a mark. Harsh, but true.

    What’s not funny is the fact that the mostly Leftist Jews will still slavishly vote Democrat, much like African-Americans, despite the fact that antisemitism is rampant in that party.

  7. Notably, he [Napolitano] doesn’t think Abraham Lincoln should have fought the Civil War or abolished slavery, saying that it would have been better to allow slavery to peter out peacefully without government intervention. I wonder how the slaves would have felt about that?

    Well, we do know that the British West Indies had a slave revolt against emancipation, driven by a well founded nut mistaken fear that it would be so abrupt that many of them would simply be turned out to starve (which actually was the fate of many of the later indentured labourers in those parts, when that system was ended abruptly). So it is quite plausible that many of the slaves would have agreed with Napolitano.

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