Dumb And Dumber: A Snap Shot Of Our Dysfunctional Civic Discourse

Two dumb tweets

If there is any value to Twitter at all, it may be its ability to reveal the intellectual deficits of those who use it.

The above tweet and response is a fine example. Hannah Cox is a libertarian-conservative writer, commentator, and activist, a Newsmax “Insider” and a frequent contributor to The Washington Examiner. Her tweet above is signature significance: any one who could state for public consumption that the United States “is one of the biggest and most intrusive governments known to man” without their brain leaping out through their nose and slapping them in the face cannot be trusted. It is a really ignorant exaggeration, the kind of hyperbole Donald Trump made daily. Overstating a point for the delectation of idiots doesn’t help. It hurts because such statements make an entire philosophy of government seem stupid by misrepresenting it.

The tweet it is responding to, by “proud progressive” Texas State Representative John Talerico, is, impressively, even worse. It is stupid AND scary. He describes himself on Twitter as “youngest legislator, former middle school teacher, and eighth generation Texan.” Then he virtue-signals by adding “1 John 4:8”: that’s the “Good is love” quote. How young is this idiot, 10? Was he frozen cryogenically in 1967 and warmed up to run for the Texas legislature against a slug? What are they teaching in Texas schools? Surely not logic, political science or world history. They clearly aren’t teaching Ben Franklin’s critical observation, “Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither.” Talerico’s tweet is an open-ended appeal to totalitarian government, if he means what he wrote—Texas schools may not be teaching English, either. The opposite of limited government is unlimited government, and unlimited government is “a boot stamping on a human face— forever,” in George Orwell’s chilling metaphor from “1984.” The Texas schools don’t teach that either, I bet.

Sadly, this is the usual level of dialogue between the Left and the Right that now frames our democracy. It’s incompetent; it’s irresponsible, and as we have seen for at least 20 years, it nurtures dysfunctional politics, government and democracy like moisture nurtures mildew.

Law And Ethics Notes

ethics and law

I’m desperately trying to meet a course materials deadline so my brain is stuck on law right now. Here are are few items of general interest:

1. As expected, the Supreme Court passed on the various cases involving the election, ruling them moot, which indeed they are. Thomas and Alito dissented, with Gorsuch joining with Alito, on the grounds that it would be prudent to take up the issues involved in those cases now, to avoid a repeat in the next election.

Justice Thomas wrote:

“The Constitution gives to each state legislature authority to determine the ‘Manner’ of federal elections,” Yet both before and after the 2020 election, nonlegislative officials in various States took it upon themselves to set the rules instead. As a result, we received an unusually high number of petitions and emergency applications contesting those changes.”

Thomas argued that the cases Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Veronica DeGraffenreid (2021) and Jake Corman v. Pennsylvania Democratic Party (2021) presented “a clear example” of election law issues that the Supreme Court should settle, writing

“The Pennsylvania Legislature established an unambiguous deadline for receiving mail-in ballots: 8 p.m. on election day. Dissatisfied, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended that deadline by three days. That decision to rewrite the rules seems to have affected too few ballots to change the outcome of any federal election. But that may not be the case in the future. These cases provide us with an ideal opportunity to address just what authority nonlegislative officials have to set election rules, and to do so well before the next election cycle. The refusal to do so is inexplicable.”

Oh, I can explain it. The Court doesn’t want to inject a destabilizing element into what is already dangerously widespread suspicion about the election. An opinion that said, in essence, “This was illegal, and some illicit votes were allowed to count that shouldn’t, probably not enough to change the results, but at this point, who knows?” would not be helpful or wise.

2. If you think a lawyer looking like a cat at a hearing is bad, or appearing before a judge on Zoom in pajamas, or a professor being on mute for two hours while lecturing remotely, consider this: Peruvian defense lawyer Héctor Cipriano Paredes Robles was taking part in a virtual hearing when his video feed began to show him stripping naked, and engaging in enthusiastic sex with a naked woman.The judge, John Chahua Torres, tried to alert Robles that the hearing participants could see him and his partner’s multiple positions on the live feed, but the lawyer was, uh, busy.

“We are witnessing obscene acts which represent a violation of public decency and are aggravated by the fact they are being recorded nationally!” Judge Torres said.

Good point.

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Valentine’s Day Ethics Warm-Up: “Ya Gotta Love Ethics!”

valentines-day-hearts-9

I’m going to see if I can get through this entire post without mentioning yesterday’s acquittal of Donald Trump. There’s a whole other post around the corner for that. Let’s see.

I was sorely tempted to post the simple word “Good!” to my Facebook feed, but resisted the temptation. All it would have accomplished was to trigger some genuinely, or at least formerly, nice and reasonable people….who have nonetheless been smug, abusive, irrational, nasty, obsessed, hateful and harmful to the culture and society since November 2016. And as much as the Duke in “McClintock!” is an inspiration…

…I won’t. At least, not right now.

1, And the audacious hypocrisy continues! To a ridiculous and childish extent, too. Here’s Dr. Jill Biden’s kindergarten-style, “do as we say not as we do,” signaling-virtue-while-not-actually-engaging-in-it White House lawn display.

Biden diaplay

How nauseating.

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Comment Of The Day: “Oppressing The Twitter Troll”

censorship cartoon

This is Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Oppressing The Twitter Troll”:

I always like to look at the law, and at the charges, to see if they are particularized and actually allege a violation.It seems to me the particular law at issue is 18 U.S. Code § 241 – Conspiracy against rights. The relevant text would seem to be paragraph 1:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; orIf two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured—

What the government is alleging here, apparently, is essentially a conspiracy to cyber-bully. Attempting to convince others to vote a certain way or not to vote at all is called “electioneering” and is not only legal in the United States, but protected speech under the First Amendment, as well as widely practiced by all political parties 24-7-365, legally and peacefully. The law criminalizing conspiracies to deprive persons of rights was passed during the civil rights era and was plainly directed at the Klu Klux Klan and similar organizations.

As we all know, those groups would intimidate voters of all races, but primarily black people and their sympathizers, by burning crosses, lynchings, threats, and other violent actions to suppress or affect voting against the groups’ interests. Most of their methods were illegal under state and federal law to begin with, but the law in this case provided an additional tool to attack those who plannedlawless actions against the rights of others as well as those who carried them out. It is a bit like the Civil RICO laws, which were primarily aimed at those who directed corrupt mob actions but almost never participated in overt criminal activity.

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It’s A Shame That Twitter Is Such A Deliberate Enabler Of Single Party Rule, A Hypocritical Speech Censor And An Enemy Of Democracy, Because There Is A Lot You Can Still Learn There….

evil_twitter_bird

1. For example, you can learn that CNN is just as untrustworthy as Twitter is….

CNN tweet3

Only occasionally I wish I had the complete absence of a life necessary to hang around Twitter and make trenchant, witty and withering responses to something like that tweet, which show either an epic lack of self-awareness by the tweeter, or a deep, deep belief that its consumers are complete idiots. I vote for the latter.

Here are some of the responses:

  • “It’s a show where they just run the @CNN logo for the hour”
  • “It’ll be a useless conversation if you fail to examine the role of @CNN in fueling and sustaining the division for ratings and profits”
  • “Any final shred of CNN sense of self-awareness was apparently surgically removed years ago.”
  • “Your fucking network, that’s what!”
  • “Here’s a good place to start: CNN covered up the mass killing of thousands of NY seniors because it has an anchor who is brother to sociopath.”

2. You can learn that many conservatives don’t comprehend the concept of “ethics”…

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Is It Ethical For Responsible Americans To Remain On Facebook?

Facebook-Censorship

There was some sort of good news but also seriously ominous news regarding Facebook’s increasingly brazen efforts to distort public debate and to use its power to restrict free speech. Unfortunately, the good news wasn’t nearly good enough, and the rest might just be the proverbial straw that breaks the metaphorical camel’s back, at least for me.

On the slightly positive side was that the giant social media platform has reversed several instances of content removal after review by the company’s “independent” (I am not convinced how independent it is) oversight body. Facebook’s new 20-member Oversight Board released its first verdicts yesterday, and overturned four of five censorship decisions. Facebook is now allowed seven days to restore the banned content.

But why does it take seven days? It doesn’t really: this is a stall. With time sensitive material, the license just compounds the harm.

Now the board will decide whether to keep former President Trump’s page banned permanently. That should tell us whether the review system is legitimate or a sham with a purely political agenda, for there can be no justification for blocking the words, views and opinions of any prominent national leader, particularly a President, and particularly particularly one who is routinely savaged with twisted accusations every day by the news media and every second by other Facebook users. The Oversight Board will issue a decision in the next 90 days as the ban continues. It’s a another transparent stall. This isn’t a hard call, and if it is for anyone, then that is signature significance for disqualifying bias.

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In This Week’s Very Special Episode of “The Conways”….

Claudia and Kellyanne

When we last left the lovable and unpredictable Conways, Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Trump, announced that she was exiting her White House post to focus on her family after her 16-year-old daughter, Claudia, claimed she was seeking emancipation from her parents over alleged “trauma and abuse.” At the same time, George Conway, the D.C. lawyer who repeatedly embarrassed his wife by attacking her boss and helping to create the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, quit his role with the group, also to deal with the family crisis.

In this week’s Very Special episode, a topless photo of Claudia was posted on Mom Kellyanne’s Twitter account using Twitter’s recently launched Fleets feature, which deletes posts after a 24-hour period. The Fleet was captured by many Twitter users anyway. Claudia then posted videos on TikTok, her favorite milieu (they are now deleted but also captured by others and reposted) confirming that the nude picture was authentic. Claudia speculated, “I’m assuming my mom took a picture of it to use against me one day and then somebody hacked her or something. I’m literally at a loss for words. If you see it, report it.” In one of the TikTok videos, Claudia Conway said that “nobody would ever have any photo like that, ever. So, Kellyanne, you’re going to fucking jail.”

Yesterday, Claudia announced that she and her mother will be “taking a break from social media” and will work on their relationship adding, “I know that my mom would never, ever post anything to hurt me like that intentionally, and I do believe she was hacked…… Please do not incite hate or violence on my family. Please, no threats, no calls to authorities. I love my mom and she loves me.”

Forgive me if I am skeptical that a daughter who just this month again said her parents abused her authored that voluntarily.

Observations:

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Ethics Cleansing, 1/27/2021: I’m Afraid This Edition Exceeds The Limit For Disturbing Stories…

Horrible text message

As a prelude, I don’t know why some commenters are arguing that the 1876 William Belknap impeachment trial is a valid precedent for trying a private citizen no longer in office on a charge that has no other purpose but to remove that individual from his or her federal office. It’s just a bad argument, which is why Belknap has only been raised by desperate anti-Trump zealots. As I pointed out in the comments, an unconstitutional act doesn’t change the Constitution. There have been many, many unconstitutional actions by our government that were allowed to occur in the past (President Jackson’s defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court to forec the Trail of Tears is an especially egregious one.\); they still can’t be cited as proof that the actions were Constitutional, or precedent for violating the Constitution again. Balknap, who had resigned as Grant’s Secretary of War just as he was about to be impeached by the House, submitted to the Senate’s unconstitutional trial. I have always assumed this was because he was certain that he would be acquitted, so he could later claim innocence. (He was incredibly guilty.) Since he was acquitted, there was no occasion to challenge the trial, the issue being moot.

The entire system was in chaos in 1876; if the Belknap trial is binding precedent that a private citizen can be tried by the Senate to remove him from office when he isn’t in that office, why not make the same claim about the unconstitutional deal between Republicans and Democrats to install the loser of the 1876 Presidential election (Hayes) in the White House in exchange for removing federal troops from the former Confederate states?

1. An example of ethical trolling, I think:

Ironic Tweet

Miller is getting all sorts of outraged responses from critics online who seem to have missed the critical fact that he was just quoting Maxine Waters’ call for harassment of Trump administration officials. Normally I regard deliberate posting of positions one doesn’t believe as unethical unless the poster makes the sarcasm or irony obvious. This one is obvious, unless the reader wasn’t paying attention to how irresponsible and vicious Democrats were in the past four years, and if the such a reader was that ignorant, he shouldn’t be involved in the discussion at all.

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Glenn Greenwald

A republic

“Unleash this monster and one day it will come for you. And you’ll have no principle to credibly invoke in protest when it does. You’ll be left with nothing more than lame and craven pleading that your friends do not deserve the same treatment as your enemies. Force, not principle, will be the sole factor deciding the outcome. If you’re lucky enough to have important and famous media friends…you have a chance to survive it. Absent that, you have none.”

Glenn Greenwald, in his post on the attempted “canceling” of writer Will Wilkenson over a facetious tweet.

The “monster” Greenwald is referring to is mob anger and indignation, magnified by social media, and enabled by self-preservation and cowardice. His essay, titled “The Moronic Firing of Will Wilkinson Illustrates Why Fear and Bad Faith Mob Demands Reign Supreme,” was triggered by the recent firing of an intellectual I never heard of by a think tank I never heard of, as well as his looming dismissal by the New York Times. His “crime” was this tweet…

Willkerson tweet

…which a hoard of online cretins and power-hungry wastrels pounced upon, falsely calling it a call to do violence to the ex-Vice-President and thus mandating his public humiliation and rejection.

As Greenwald correctly concludes, no reasonably intelligent reader could think the tweet, posted the night of Joe Biden’s inauguration, was anything but a pointed joke. Extreme Trump supporters were furious with Pence for not taking action to reject the 2020 election results. Anti-Trump extremists wanted Pence to remove President Trump using the inapplicable 25th Amendment ploy, which he correctly refused to do (and could do constitutionally anyway.) Thus lunatics on both sides of the U.S. ideological divide could be unified in their anger and hatred toward Mike Pence, ironically making his mistreatment a potentially unifying act. Wilkinson rueful point was valid (if clumsily made), and he wasn’t personally advocating violence against Pence. But a wealthy hedge fund manager and large-money GOP donor, Gabe Hoffman, condemned the tweet which he claimed “call[ed] for former Vice President Mike Pence to be lynched.” Hoffman asked the New York Times, which employs Wilkinson as an opinion writer, to comment on its ” ‘contributing opinion writer’ calling for violence against a public official,” then tweeted to Wilkinson’s other employers, the Niskanen Center, a moderate public policy think tank, to pressure them as well. The Center quickly fired Wilkinson, while his fate with the Times hangs in the balance. A spokesperson for the paper told Fox News: “Advocating violence of any form, even in jest, is unacceptable and against the standards of The New York Times. We’re reassessing our relationship with Will Wilkinson.”

Naturally, as happens in 99% of these increasingly common episodes, the victim of the deliberate misunderstanding resorted to a grovelling apology, saying in part,

“Last night I made an error of judgment and tweeted this. It was sharp sarcasm, but looked like a call for violence. That’s always wrong, even as a joke. It was especially wrong at a moment when unity and peace are so critical. I’m deeply sorry and vow not to repeat the mistake. . . . [T]here was no excuse for putting the point the way I did. It was wrong, period.”

No, actually it didn’t look like a call for violence, and apologizing for something it wasn’t but was deliberately misrepresented as being for malicious purposes is far worse than the tweet itself.

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Does Anyone Understand How Twitter Could Post This?

Twitter Tweet

Twitter has been on a banning binge, including the President of the United States, and it chooses now to grandstand about open internet principles?Forget hypocrisy; this is closer to satire. What’s going on here?

Some theories:

  • Twitter Public Policy missed a crucial memo.
  • Some rogue intern is trying to make Twitter look ridiculous.
  • Twitter is gaslighting us.
  • The company is incompetent.
  • The company thought it would be funny to post a misleading tweet that would, under its own policy would mandate suspending Twitter’s account.
  • It literally believes that Donald Trump is an exception to all standards and principles.
  • Emulating the President it just helped elect, it has concluded that the American public only pays attention to what you say, not what you do.

Anything else?