On Having Rational Arguments With People Who Don’t Want To Be Rational

Guest post by Null Pointer

I’m especially grateful for re-postable comment right now, as I still am in searing pain from an oral surgery procedure too disgusting to describe, and drugged to the gills. But ethics moves on, mindful of no man. This one is nicely appropriate, since I am still losing respect for Facebook friends at a breakneck pace, as they have attacked me for suggesting that reasonable doubt existed in the Chauvin trial and that the trial was unfair by any rational standard. It’s like a clinical example of how mobs make themselves stupid and crazy. For example, a lawyer—a lawyer!—wrote this: “Doesn’t “fair” mean fair to both parties?” No! Nothing in the Constitution requires a “fair trial” for the State. Incredible. A progressive lawyer actually thinks it does..or what is ore likely the case, was grasping at straws and got a really stupid one.

I will dedicate this Guest Post (since it arrived in an open forum) by Null Pointer to the sadly MIA (since January) commenter Extradimensional Cephalopod. This is one of his favorite subjects.

It is difficult to engage with someone who is making emotional arguments, but not impossible. You first have to understand person you are engaging with, how they think and why they think the way they do. Throwing facts at brainwashed people isn’t going to do anything, because most people have been taught to ignore facts that don’t align with their viewpoints. Younger people have been increasingly taught in school that feelings out weigh facts. Often the way to reach them is to start with feelings, and move slowly outward from the feelings to the facts. Acknowledge the correctness of their feelings, then explore the way they feel about all the feeder issues around whatever issue you are discussing. Usually you will find that even though they are very dogmatic about some major political issue, they have doubts about some of the related issues. It’s a process, and it takes time. Trying to simply change someone’s mind to your position isn’t going to work, but getting them to think more deeply about their own position will.

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Wherein Having Ethics Alarms Ringing 24-7 Again Proves To Be Inconvenient…

I took Spuds out for a walk in the light rain, and was relieved when he relieved himself with his usual impressive fecal discharge early on. I dutifully collected it in a blue New York Times bag—using the delivery bags for this purposes amuses me, as the final content of the bag is less noxious than its original product. Spuds even did his doo-dooty near a trash receptacle. “Now that’s over with!” I thought. Then I took my sweet dog on walk down one of the boutique streets in the neighborhood: lovely houses, elaborate gardens, perfect lawns. And Spuds walked quickly onto one of the latter, and duplicated his earlier performance. Topped it, in fact.

He almost never does this, but I almost always carry a second New York Times bag in case he’s feeling prolific. This time I hadn’t.

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Exclamation Points, 3/16/21: Duh! Whoa! Yay! Gag! Asshole!” (Item #1)

AngryJudge

The following Comment of the Day by long, LONG time commenter Michael West is especially welcome: there’s nothing I like better than a long, erudite COTD when I feel terrible and every moment not seeping is an ordeal. For a lot of reasons, I was way behind on my usual dental care last year, and the piper must ne paid: I have two toothaches, a related sinus infection and headache, and now face three extractions next week that wish could be in the next minute. My situation is just one more fun benefit of the lockdown, drastic, sot-in-the-dark precaution that had still unmeasurable benefits and many, many costs that have still not been quantified.

But I digress. People citing the Bible as authority for dubious ethical principles or, in the case sparking the COTD, unethical conduct has always been a pet peeve of mine even before I started thinking about such matters as a career. The example abused by Don Lemon was even on the Rationalization List: #6, The Biblical Rationalizations.

As a special treat, Michael ends by taking on “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes.”

Here is his erudite Comment of the Day on the first item in the post, “Ethics Exclamation Points, 3/16/21: Duh! Whoa! Yay! Gag! Asshole!”

***

Oh look, someone who hasn’t cracked open a Bible in decades hopes to lecture Christians or Jews on Judeo-Christianity!

Here’s the whole passage from Matthew-

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

This comes from the famous Sermon on the Mount.

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Comment Of The Day: “Tit For Tat Ethics: The Anti-Biden-Pro-Trump Flags”

Mutual assured

Chris Marschner, in his Comment of the Day, once again raises the persistent ethics problem of when or whether unethical methods to foil the unethical acts and strategy of others become necessary, justified, and thus, except to the Absolutists, ethical. It is one of the great mysteries of ethics, and one that has never been answered to my satisfaction, or anyone’s satisfaction. This has many implications: the ethics of war is part of the controversy. So is capital punishment. And, of course, politics in general.

Here is Chris’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Tit For Tat Ethics: The Anti-Biden-Pro-Trump Flags”:

There is something to be said for the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction which is the ultimate Tit for Tat. The vitriol expressed against Trump and his supporter if left unchallenged will become the tactic of choice for all future challengers to the Democrat machine.

Political pendulums swing back and forth. The pendulum will not swing if sufficient numbers are not convinced that they are not alone. Complaining about what the AUC does has proven to be ineffective. Pick your poison – vulgar flags or riots. Flags such as these, while crass and vulgar, are simply tools to communicate that others feel as they do which gives more people an impetus for speaking out. The electorate seeks safety in numbers. These signs are no different that the BLM or End Racism signs in yards or “Tolerance” stickers on automobiles.

When the bully gets a taste of his or her own medicine the bully tends to behave differently. If there is a better way for the average person to broadly communicate a reasoned alternative perspective, when your local paper limits the number of letters to the editor for their position but promotes the printing of the paper’s preferred perspectives for whatever reason, well, I am all ears. These signs reflect who we are. Only when people see themselves in that mirror will they see just how ugly their own actions were.

Personally, I am tired of talking about the AUC [JM: For infrequent visitors here, the AUC is Ethics Alarms shorthand for the “resistance”/Democratic Party/ mainstream media alliance I call “The Axis of Unethical Conduct” for its behavior in response to the 2016 election.] and I am looking for ways to ethically combat their tactics. I will not, however, allow my liberties to be stolen through unethical practices so that I can be called an ethical player.

Reddit Depresses Me

despair

People are always telling me I should check Reddit for ethics issues and stories. I wish I could. Whenver I am on that site for any significant amount of time, I become despondent about the state of the ethical comprehension and commitment of the American public, begin to feel like King Canute trying to sweep back the tide, and want to pack it all in and lie in a gutter drinking Woolite. I don’t need more discouragement, thanks. There’s enough to read in the news and on social media to lead me that way already.

Almost invariably, what I read on Reddit shows either participants who have the ethics of zombies, or posted evidence of the rotten ethics pervading society by others. Yesterday some link on the site was producing a lot of traffic on Ethics Alarms, so I tried to trace the links back to find out which post here was drawing interest. I failed, but in the course of a half-hour of scrolling, found a parade of ethics horrors, including one popular tweet in which someone opined that since he had received his pandemic stimulus checks and more were coming, and because he had been vaccinated, he thought it was ridiculous that anyone would complain about President Biden “not having enough press conferences.”

Now there’s a responsible voter: as long as the government sends money, that’s all that matters.

Worse, I saw this alarming text exchange:

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Another 7-11 Encounter: There Is Hope.

yankees-vs-red-sox

For over a decade, a cynical, destructive, dangerous and—let’s see, is there another good adjective? Yes!— unethical strategy has been pursued to strip away all trust between the races, to use racial guilt for profit and power, to make black Americans fear and hate white Americans and to cause white Americans to resent their blacks neighbors. This is, disgracefully, a deliberate choice by elements in our society and politics in order to achieve power. It is an existential threat to the United States, our society and our culture, and has never been more so than now.

I was running an errand for Grace to the local 7-11. As I got out of my car, wearing a black #*&!@#!! mask, my path intersected with that of another man on the way to the convenience store. All I could see were his eyes and his skin-color (he was African-American), and the rest was attire: a New York Yankees cap and a Yankees team jacket. I was one up on him: I was wearing my Red Sox cap, a Boston team jacked AND my Red Sox canvas deck shoes.

The stranger, who appeared to be around my age, froze dramatically as we came face to face about ten feet apart, extended his arms, and exclaimed, “What is this, a beer ad?” and laughed. I replied, “I think it has to be!,” and he followed me into the store. We stopped a few feet inside the door, and talked for 20 minutes about baseball, our teams, various players, baseball ethics (steroids and cheating), and life. He was such a friendly, smart and funny guy; I loved talking with him. Then he gave me a fist bump, and we parted. I never even got his name.

There was nothing in our interaction that day that involved race or anything else contentious. We were just two human beings and citizens of the United States who have a lot more in common and a lot more to talk about together than group identities and conflict. The encounter reminded me that the bonds that unite us as a nation are still stronger and more resilient than the enemies of democracy think they are.

And as I got back into my car, the most famous quote from Anne Frank’s diary suddenly popped into my head: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Not all people, certainly, but just maybe enough of them.

There is hope.

Comment Of The Day: “And THIS Is And THIS Is Why Critical Race Theory Needs To Be Banned In Our Schools……”

Manifesto

It’s an open letter! It’s an analysis! It’s a warning! It’s a manifesto! It’s fodder for debate!

Veteran Ethics Alarms commenter and provocateur Steve-O-in NJ is in fine form in his smoking Comment of the Day on the post, “And THIS Is Why Critical Race Theory Needs To Be Banned In Our Schools.”

Here it is:

You know, this is as good a time as any for me to reveal my open letter to the people behind this indoctrination and those who go along with it.

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Ethics Observations On The Annoying Case Of The Lingering Christmas Decorations

Xmas lights-letter

Full disclosure: The Marshall Christmas tree is still up, though absent an unforeseen intervening event, today will be its last.

Long Island resident Sara Pascucci received a typed, anonymous letter a week ago reading: “Take your Christmas lights down! Its Valentines Day!!!!!!”

Her relatively elaborate decorations can be seen above, along with the obnoxious missive. As the Washington Post tells the story, Pascucci was especially upset by the letter because she had lost both her father and aunt in January “to” the Wuhan virus. We now know (or should know) that they may have died of something else entirely but with the virus rather than from or of the virus and would still be listed as pandemic casualties because the idea is to keep the public as terrified and malleable as possible. This is irrelevant to the story, but it drives me crazy. What the father and aunt died of is also irrelevant to the story, and in fact I don’t see any justification for including the information at all except as more pandemic-panic propaganda, which has been the news media’s mission for a year. If Pascucci’s father had died of complications following a stroke and her aunt was 105 and had died of an allergic reaction to peanut oil, do you really think that would have been included in the story?

But I digress…

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The Predictable Fate Of TIME’s Election-Rigging Scoop, And The Comment Of The Day On “You Know Why Real Conspiracies Are Always Discovered, Don’t You? It’s Because Someone Always Talks…Gee, Thanks, TIME!”

Uneven playing field

TIME Magazine’s surprising exposition of how the 2020 Presidential election was “rigged” was both a major media story and an important contribution to the public’s understanding of how their liberties are being extracted from them in stages. Unfortunately, nobody reads TIME any more—for good reason—and the mainstream media, among the conspirators indicted by TIME, had no reason to treat this any differently from the other inconvenient and counter-narrative revelations they buried or failed to report during the campaign and before. Their other tactic, as we saw repeatedly, was to discredit such news as “conservative stories,” meaning that they were contrived and the product of fanatic right-wingers. TIME’s story was a special problem, because TIME has been a dependable source of progressive spin for decades.

The solution wasn’t a problem, however. The mainstream news media just ignored TIME’s story. Problem solved! They didn’t try to rebut it—that would trigger the Streisand Effect. It was so much more helpful to the effort to marginalize Republicans, the ex-President, and conservatives to make the silly conspiracy theory-obsessed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene the center of public attention. It was perfect, really; highlight a conspiracy theory wacko to discredit a genuine conspiracy the mainstream media participated in.

Of course, Fox News covered the TIME story, but you know...Fox. The New York Times took a clever counter-measure, publishing a three part series on “Trump’s efforts to subvert the election.” Whatever online discussion of TIME’s piece there was occurred on blogs like Ethics Alarms (See the PJ Media contribution, and Ann Althouse’s contribution.)

Here is Null Pointer’s Comment of the Day on the post, “You Know Why Real Conspiracies Are Always Discovered, Don’t You? It’s Because Someone Always Talks…Gee, Thanks, TIME!”

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Ethics Warm-Up, 1/22/2021, As Your Host Tries Not To Write Angry

Only the soothing tones of Johnny Nash could calm me down after this morning’s ordeal, and it hasn’t worked yet.

I set out with my wife to get her to a rather urgent doctor’s appointment at an office we had never been to before. I should have been forewarned knowing it was in Manassas (those who know Northern Virginia know what I mean.)To make a long, horrible story short, we never got there. The exits on Route 66 suddely skipped five numbers. There was a sign for Exit 47 A, which was also for 47 B without saying so. The construction everywhere made navigation impossible. After missing the right exit, detours and construction mad it seemingly impossible to get on 66 going the other way, The Google map directions were wrong. The GPS installed in the car refused to take the street number, and dumped us in no-man’s land. Naturally, everyone we talked to at the doctor’s office professed ignorance at how to get there. After wandering in the wilderness for two hours, we gave up. Then the last staffer at the doctor’s office said, “Oh, when you come back, don’t use Exit 47 like all the directions say. Use 44. That takes you right to our door and avoids all the construction.”

NOW you tell me that?

The over-arching goal of ethics is to make life easier and more pleasant for everyone else. If you work or live in a locale that is difficult to get to or find the first time, you warn people.

1. Welcome “Impeachment or Removal Plan U”! Well, not really welcome. Not really a removal plan either. Plan U is based on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was being thrown around as a way to punish Senator Hawley and Cruz for doing what Democrats had done every time this century a Republican had won the Presidency: challenge the electoral vote. When Republicans do it, you see, it’s an insurrection. Then teh second that word escaped their lips, coup-minded Democrats hit themselves in the forehead with teh palm of their hands, “I could have had a V-8!” style, and said, “Wait a minute! How did we let this get by us when we were trying to devise a way to get rid of Trump without winning an election! It was there all the time!” Then, choosing to ignore the fact that you can’t “get rid of” someone who’s already gone, this became the latest of 21—yes 21!—bogus anti-Trump plans. (I haven’t added it to the list yet. Give me a break.)

Let U stand for “Unbelievable!”

Section 3 provides:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Law profs Seth Tillman and Josh Blackman soberly analyze the theory here, saying in conclusion,

“…it is not clear that the House managers seek to disqualify Trump under the Impeachment Disqualification Clause, as well as under Section 3. The sole article of impeachment is opaque on this point. It references Section 3, but we think it is only referenced in the context of efforts to define a substantive impeachable offense. We expect that President Trump’s counsel will argue that the text of the House’s single article of impeachment does not give him fair notice that he faces Section 3 disqualification. Once again, the House’s rushed drafting may determine the fate of the Senate impeachment trial.”

That. and the fact that the impeachment was based on literally nothing.

2. Now this is a weird ethics movie…“The Killing of a Scared Deer, the 2017 film now on Netflix, raises a “Sophie’s Choice”-style ethical dilemma with solution that looks ridiculous but has at least surface validity if you can accept the premise: the character who has to make the choice is dealing with some kind of a curse.

3. Is it incompetent to employ a strategy that nobody knew was incompetent? Statistical analytics now show that the traditional football strategy of punting usually makes no sense. Now, college and professional teams are going for a first down when once they would have kicked the ball away.

The Chicago Tribune reports,

Punting has become far less prevalent in recent years. NFL teams punted an average of 3.7 times per game during the 2020 regular season, the lowest figure in recorded pro football history. Teams averaged 4.8 punts per game as recently as 2017, a rate that had held more or less steady since the mid-1980s but has declined in each of the last four seasons….The sudden decrease in punting comes over a decade after the football analytics community began decrying the punt as a counterproductive strategy, particularly in short-yardage situations near midfield or when trailing late in a close game. It doesn’t take much number-crunching to realize that if the average offense gains 5.6 yards per play (the 2020 rate), not only should a team be able to pick up a yard or 2 on fourth down, but it should also be wary of gifting the ball to an offense capable of marching right back down the field 5.6 yards at a time.

The traditions and conventional wisdom in sports and other activities, wrong, counter-productive or silly though they may be, don’t indicate incompetence until data, changed conditions or experience indicate that they don’t work. Now it seems obvious that punting is usually foolish, just as baseball finally learned that sacrifice bunts were dumb except in very special situations. But when a culture accepts conventional wisdom and it it is embedded in that culture, one cannot call it incompetence to stick with tradition, unless and until there is access to information proving the accepted practice to be folly.

4. A reminder: Yahoo! and other news sources have reported that “Over 408,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 as of Thursday.” That’s false. It is the essence of fake news. As Ethics Alarms had noted repeatedly, over 408,000 Americans may have died WITH the virus, but there is no question that they all did not die OF the virus. I am still waiting for a well-publicized estimate of how many of those deaths were not super-seniors, cancer patients, or others who may well have died anyway. This is something we have a right to know.

5. A plea for a double standard from Joe. Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller asked President Biden if the vaccination goal was “high enough,” since “that’s basically where the U.S. is right now.” Biden responded with pique, although he did not call Miller a pony-soldier, saying, “When I announced it you all said it wasn’t possible. Come on, give me a break, man.” It’s a fair request, but if there was ever an instance when any journalist from a non-conservative news organization gave Biden’s predecessor a break, please refresh my memory. I can’t think of one. Besides, Biden is already getting one ” break” after another, as Mediate notes in a recent post titled, “Media Begins Biden Presidency With Overt Fawning and Flattery.”

6. Hank Aaron has died. The legitimate baseball career home run champ (I do not count Barry Bonds) was 86. He represented the very best of baseball ethics on and off the field throughout his career unlike the icon whose homer total he bested (Babe Ruth had no peer as a player, but had the ethics of a ten-year-old his whole life), and the miscreant who passed him by cheating, Bonds. The Hammer was always being over-shadowed by someone: Willy Mays, a contemporary, was more gifted and charismatic; Ernie Banks was more lovable, Roberto Clemente was never had a chance to grow old. Henry Aaron just did his job every day, seldom missing a game due to injury, leading the National League in various seasons in batting average, homers,runs, hits and RBI. Aaron only won one Most Valuable Player Award (in 1957, when his Braves won the pennant), but over his 23 year career, he proved more valuable than almost all of his contemporaries.

[Notice of Correction: I originally wrote that Hank never won an an MVP. Thanks to LoSonnambulo for the correction.]