Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/2020: The “ARRGGH!” Edition

A weekend?

Frankly, at this point, I can’t tell the difference.

1. ARRGH! Trump Calls For An Insurrection! I must say, having a President who is 12 does create problems. The President’s juvenile “Liberate Michigan!” tweet naturally had the “resistance” in an uproar; the Washington Post even dug up a lawyer from the Obama administration who was willing to write an op-ed seriously arguing that he had advocated the overthrow of the government. Oh, great, I can’t wait for Adam Schiff to try to impeach him for a tweet that had the gravitas of graffiti.

If one concedes that the President should tweet at all—and since he refuses to use any filters whatsoever, I don’t concede that; I doubt that anyone who wants to maintain credibility and trust should tweet—then urging the states to start nudging the economy back into operation is a legitimate objective, and so is opposing outrageous meat-axe over-reach by governors. mayors and police that abuse civil rights—like banning the sale of seeds, or being alone in a car. However, as I am sick of saying, the President’s mode of communication does not include nuance, which makes tweets like yesterday’s irresponsible and incompetent

2. “ARRGH! I’ve been infected!”  When the going gets tough, the tough get scamming. In Arcata, California, a fake on-line ordering webpage named “Order Hero” copied web pages from local restaurants including phone numbers, addresses and actual menu items. Customers accessed the  website through Google, then provided credit card information to order food.  When the victims arrived at the restaurant to pick up their order, they learned no such on-line ordering services existed.

This is but the tip of a very perilous metaphorical iceberg. Popular Science says that the FBI expects the current crisis to cause an “uptick in just about every type of scheme you can imagine.” For example,  people have begun to receive text messages claiming  to come from the CDC, warning recipients that they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive the virus. It’s  designed to fool  worried “victims” into going to a trap website where they will expose their personal information.

The FBI says that risks are higher right now because so many people are working from home, which places them outside any digital protections they enjoy when working in a school or an office. The Popular Science link above has many examples of common scams that have been proliferating, including fake virus update websites and others. Here’s another example: Google  announced that more than 18 million pandemic -related emails went out every day last week, mostly phishing schemes. Some of the messages claim to come from employers,  health professionals, government agencies, or school districts.

3. “ARRGH! The Lawyer isn’t wearing pants!” or, “When sheltered slob alarms don’t ring”... Judge Dennis Bailey of Broward County  posted his warnings to lawyers about being too casual, as in “disrespectful,” during on-line court proceedings. Bailey told the Miami Herald that he wears his judge’s robe during video hearings, and lawyers should show their respect by dressing as if they were in an actual court, meaning, among other things, not wearing a bath robe. He wrote in part,

“You’re going to earn the same amount of respect that you’re shown,” Bailey said. “If you show up in jeans and T-shirt, it’s counterproductive….It is remarkable how many attorneys appear inappropriately on camera. We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc. One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers. And putting on a beach cover-up won’t cover up you’re poolside in a bathing suit. So, please, if you don’t mind, let’s treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.”

When a judge says “please, if you don’t mind,”  it means, “Do it or else.”

The judge also cautioned about being aware of technical problems. Zoom has an audio lag time, and lawyers have to allow for it or people will be talking over each other. call it Zoom competence.

“Often, lawyers are not looking at their screens but down at their files, their outlines and notes or simply out the window and cannot see the judge is hollering ‘Stop! Stop!’ because an objection has been made and the audio stays with the witness rather than obeying the judge,” Bailey wrote. [Pointer: ABA Journal]


The final item is a lament that I wrote late last night after spending more than an hour responding to a comment that was too intrusive to ignore and also too stupid to waste my time on. Feel free to skip it.

4. “ARRGH! Your argument is so ignorant it hurts!” It’s so frustrating. Yesterday I heard again from a commenter who last dropped by to cheer for impeachment in November. I read his recent comments in reverse order, since that’s how they come up on my control screen. The first few were moderately weak, but then he was defending the indefensible—providing cash benefits to illegal immigrants. Then I got to his first comment of the day. I have never been impressed with his reasoning in the past, but his posts were short enough to be tolerable. This comment was long, and contained almost every illogical, emotional, lame justification for illegal immigration  on the list; in fact, it demonstrated what I asserted at the beginning of the post: there is no legitimate case for permitting illegal immigration, not that this commenter was capable of making the best of any debating point. I started out to give a thorough rebuttal to weak but passionate comment by a progressive commenter. Then the more I got into it, the more aggravated I got. This, I realized, was a long and mind-meltingly stupid comment that was insulting while showing no serious comprehension of the issues at all.  Once I started cleaning out these Augean stables I had to finish, and it became clear to me that I was dealing with the Dunning-Kreuger Effect. I want diverse opinions here, but the blog doesn’t benefit from lazy, knee-jerk, talking-point screeds. By the time the comment concluded with the obnoxious coda…

Not only does your viewpoint not represent America’s future but it doesn’t even remotely represent our country’s past (ever read the Statue of Liberty’s poem). Just the worse instincts of backwards people that pushed away the Chinese and Irish and Jews and everyone else. You’re going to make a moral judgment on states that want to protect immigrants and their own citizens so I’m making one on you, sir.

…I was out of patience, and furious with myself for wasting so much of my time. I count no less than 8 rationalizations, non-sequiturs, silly talking points (the poem!), deflections, false representations and insults in that one paragraph, and the whole comment was stuffed with the same. I decided that the Ethics Alarms “Stupidity Rule” had been triggered ( “some people are just too ignorant or stupid to take part in the discussion here, as they interfere with the orderly exchange of opinions and ideas.”) and I banned him.

Now I feel badly about it.

The problem is that I answer comments. Very few bloggers do that. Almost all of them just put up a post and let people say what they want—and much of what they say is trivial, or foolish, or misinformed. That wasn’t the idea here, and won’t be. I want to learn, and I also want to teach: I am an ethics trainer, after all. I regard the whole blog, not just my posts and material, my responsibility and a reflection on my integrity. My commitment to free expression means that I will allow  some repugnant opinions, but really stupid opinions trip the wire, and referencing “The New Colossus” in a defense of illegal immigration does the job.

9 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/2020: The “ARRGGH!” Edition

  1. Governor Whitmer did NOT ban the sale of seeds. Or car seats. Or really anything. What she did, rightly or wrongly, was direct stores larger than 50,000 square feet (which I’ve found out is a pretty huge, as in usually not local small business, building) to cordon non-essential items, such as, and here’s where things went off the rails, “plants, seeds, paint…” It wasn’t because she doesn’t want people planting their gardens (which you can’t do in April in Michigan anyway). It was to avoid large crowds roaming the aisles and not being able to keep their distance. One store took it too far and said “NO BABY SEAT FOR YOU!” and someone took a picture, and off we went… But my local seed store, and even the local Tractor Supply Store, are selling seeds. Legally.

    • I keep hearing that argument. If a large segment of the public takes a poorly worded and conceived order as banning “non-essential items,” then that’s what it does. It doesn’t matter why she thinks cordoning off access to garden stuff is a good idea, it’s excessive and abusive. And the government may not tell ME what I think is essential. That’s the bottom line. Similarly, if the effect of the order is to make it impossible to buy an item in a major place where they are supposed to be accessible, that’s still a ban.

      • That is precisely right. If a store is open, all its products should be available. A person needing a car battery from the Wal-Mart is no more or less likely to loiter than someone needing flour. And each may be equally “essential” to the individual.

        These partial bans are nothing more than attempts at exerting totalitarian control over citizens…they do nothing to make the public any safer or more healthy. They do, however, condition us to live in a world of restriction.

        That is anathema in the United States.

    • “It was to avoid large crowds roaming the aisles and not being able to keep their distance.”

      So the solution is to corral the customers into a smaller section of the store? That’ll help ’em keep their distance from each other for sure.

      If that was really the intent of the order, then it’s incompetent. A much simpler, less confusing, less idiotic solution would be to just limit the number of customers allowed in the store.

  2. Not only does your viewpoint not represent America’s future but it doesn’t even remotely represent our country’s past (ever read the Statue of Liberty’s poem). Just the worse instincts of backwards people that pushed away the Chinese and Irish and Jews and everyone else. You’re going to make a moral judgment on states that want to protect immigrants and their own citizens so I’m making one on you, sir.

    I fully understand that my view of things, and my comments, and the scope of my concerns if I can put it like this, extends into territory that many, perhaps most here, do not share and indeed oppose. Yet I feel forced to at least make some comments, and what I say and what I think is especially difficult, or hard to fathom, hard to categorize, because — in fact — I do not take a specific side. I try to stand outside of a given question or problem and *interrogate* it.

    People deal in ideas or views these days which are so incomplete, so ‘tendentious’, so laden with what certain people determine is the *right* and the *correct* view (that is, political correctness the destroyer of proper argument and proper thought) that when I read their statements I become aware that I have to stop right there and — quite literally in fact — either make a mental note of every issue about which they have gotten it wrong or, sometimes here, write an essay of rebuttal. The entire structure of thinking, an entire social doctrine consciously or unconsciously defined & received falls into a *questionable* category. This is why I say: we are entering a period of time in which the entire Postwar Liberal Order is being challenged & questioned. In order to understand that this is happening, one has to simply open to the fact that such is happening. If one wished to understand why it is happening, one has to take the time to investigate and mull-over the arguments. As an example Ronald Beiner (Canadian professor of Political Science, University of Toronto) wrote a book that sounded an alarm about those ‘dangerous thinkers’ (Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right) in which he spelled out what, according to his reasoned view, precisely is the danger and why these thinkers should be resisted. I have read those thinkers that he has issues with, and I have read the thought of those who challenge the Postwar Liberal Order, so at the very least I have awareness of what is being debated, and perhaps what is at stake.

    But here comes along a fellow (I assume he is male? I am uncertain is ‘fellows’ can be female!) who blurts out a statement (“Not only does your viewpoint not represent America’s future but it doesn’t even remotely represent our country’s past”) which is (I will argue) in a basic sense Orwellian. I say this honestly, not as an exaggeration. And here is why: The country, the nation, has always had issues about receiving foreigners. In this sense the Founders themselves held opinions on the matter which completely contradict the ‘politically correct notion about what America is’ that operates today, in the sense of what its ethnic and racial composition should and must be maintained in order for the political, social and indeed spiritual health of the nation to continue.

    You could, he could, they could, anyone could put forward an argument, and it would not be an unsound one, that the racial and ethnic composition of this country, and any country on the face of the planet, must be carefully paid attention to, and that in no sense whatever is it unethical or immoral to have concerns, nor to discuss any particular aspect of this issue taking into account those categories which, now, are forbidden by ‘politically correct thinking’ and — as I say — ‘coerced thought’: those things that you must think and believe and accept because groups of people tell you that to be a proper ethical or moral being that you must. If you are *free* and if you have *liberty* in the intellectual domain, then you have and you must have every right to think things through, and to think in any category and using any particular criteria and points-of-reference.

    How funny it is, in a tragic way, that along comes a lunatic Californian who feels he has the highfaluting ethical and moral right to ‘pronounce’ on these topics! He is the judge & the jury and he feels he has the authority to send you-plural (that is, anyone & everyone) to a ‘moral hell’ if they do not think and believe and speak as he does.

    That is the part that I notice mostly: this sense of absolute moral authority (I know that you Jack don’t use or like the term ‘moral’ but it is part of language and common expression. I suppose you could say ‘ethical authority’ though, but I refer to something more like ‘social morals’).

    3. morals Rules or habits of conduct, especially of sexual conduct, with reference to standards of right and wrong: a person of loose morals; a decline in the public morals.

    [1300–50; Middle English < Latin mōrālis=mōr- (s. of mōs) usage, custom + -ālis -al1]

    So, California Loco-Beans goes on to pronounce:

    Just the worse instincts of backwards people that pushed away the Chinese and Irish and Jews and everyone else.

    Now, this is (to me) clearly an Orwellian phrasing: an overt sophistry that claims to be morally correct. In no sense is it an improper instinct to be concerned about who makes up the society that you live in! If people have such concerns, they might have very sound reasons. This statement and the way that it is asserted is Orwellian because it demands that all thinking stop, right there, and proceed no further. If you give in at that point, well, then *they* have you from that point on. It is coercive and its function and purpose is to kill proper intellectual process.

    I could go one here and explain and cite those people, either average citizens or qualified and trained intellectuals, who put forward opinions about, say, excessive Catholic immigration, or a certain awareness of danger (and concern) about Jewish immigration, and the same for Chinese or Oriental immigration: this would not mean, not necessarily, that I myself believe any of that (accept those terms or have those specific prejudices), but it would mean that I am capable, and allowed, to think about them and any d*mned thing that I want! I am free to think about, offer opinions about, and influence other people to think and opine and then to decide about any particular question or issue. And here I refer to every hot topic — racial, religious, ethnic, cultural, political, philosophical: any d*mned thing! — that I feel inclined to think about or which concerns me! (and why I don’t write out swear words is my own issue! 🙂 )

    You’re going to make a moral judgment on states that want to protect immigrants and their own citizens so I’m making one on you, sir.

    The use of the term ‘sir’ here warrants an icepick inserted into the eye. (Just kidding!)

    While I did understand Jack’s argument (on the thread where Cali-Loon posted it) that a state’s right does not extend to break laws that have become national laws, I am not exactly concerned for that issue in what I express here. I am talking about the freedom to think cultural and social and political and philosophical and civilizational issues through within a free intellectual environment. That is the place where the controls are first asserted, where the Orwellian terms are introduced, and that is the place where the controls must be lifted. Refused. Thrown off!

    Now, on to more important matters! I wanted to share some very important color-names. I know these are going to help you-plural and here is as good a place as any to bring them out:

    Tartan Green
    Mallow Pink
    Angel Red
    Mineral Brown
    English Oak
    Sweet Briar (or Rose d’Althea)

    I’d myself like to see more color references since they tend to cheer up the place! 🙂

    • Some golden yellows; these should help:

      Empire Yellow
      Sunflower Dandelion (I vote for this)
      Jonquil (tends to orange but my what a lovely name!)

      PENITENCE The penitential discipline, in its original conception, required a delinquent to pass through three stages, beginning with a confession of guilt (Exomolgesis) and ending with absolution, and a restoration to his forfeited privileges (Reconciliation).

  3. 1. Insurrection

    However, as I am sick of saying, the President’s mode of communication does not include nuance, which makes tweets like yesterday’s irresponsible and incompetent

    It isn’t the lack of nuance that makes them unethical. Rather, it’s the fact that he deliberately ignores the value of nuance in order to increase their impact. That’s what is really bad — he wanted exactly the response he got.

    Which raises another point: How freaking incompetent is the Left? They fall all over themselves to gobble up every bit of obvious troll-bait this president chums the water with. It would be hysterical if the stakes weren’t so high.

    2. Infected!

    Criminals and Democrats never let a good crisis go to waste, eh?

    3. Lawyers in underwear

    Well, this definitely falls under “modern problems.” Or perhaps, “coronavirus problems.”

    4. Ignorant arguments

    Now I feel badly about it.

    I feel your pain. When I ran a blog, I would often wind up in just this situation. I wanted to allow open debate, but when the person refused to stray from toxically ill-informed, hyperbolic or outright insane arguments, it would eventually lead to a ban after several warnings. Often, it was an earnest person incapable of rational thought. That makes it all the harder.

    It’s very difficult to draw the line between an earnest attempt to communicate and rote nonsense that a modicum of education should dissuade, or at least moderate. Unfortunately, because so many on the Left encourage emotionalism and discourage critical thought, it’s often the case that rote talking points, logical fallices, rationalizations, and cant afflict their arguments.

    I think your decision was in the best interest of the blog and its denizens, but I do know the pain of banning earnest idjits.

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