Tag Archives: analogies

Comment Of The Day: “The Desperate ‘Gunsplaining’ Dodge”

“Saying you need to understand gun terminology to have opinions on gun policy is the equivalent of saying you need to understand the biology of a heroin overdose to have an opinion on the drug war.”

Thus went the jaw-on-the-floor stupid tweet of Zack Beauchamp, a senior report at Vox. I had written a post about the ridiculous “gunsplaining” article in the Washington Post, and foolishly assumed that even anti-gun fanatics would be embarrassed to endorse the view expressed there that those arguing for material changes in public policy should be required to understand the object of that policy. Then came Zack’s tweet.

Admittedly, and to be fair, Twitter makes people stupid. We have documented the sad Twitter-feuled decline of Harvard Law School icon Larry Tribe, and new victims of Twitter brain-suck suface every day.  Bill Kristol once had a rather impressive brain, for example; look what he tweeted last week:

Wow. What a terrible, and ahistorical, analogy.  The Texans at the Alamo were fighting in a war to secede from Mexico. Santa Anna was an authoritarian all right, but to Texans he was being authoritarian in the same way Lincoln was when he used forcet to keep the South from leaving. Mexico was hardly “nativist”: it invited Americans to settle the territory, and their arrival was completely legal. Indeed, Texas is a great example of what can happen when a country doesn’t control immigration at all.  Twitter makes you stupid, and bias makes you even more stupid. Add anti-Trump bias to Twitter and you get Bill Kristol sounding like Maxine Waters.

Zach liked Kristol’s bad analogy too!

The fact that Vox employs a senior reporter whose critical thinking skills are so poor and whose judgment is so wretched that he happily displays them on social media is instructive regarding the influence new media commentators like Vox wield. Thus I was grateful for this Comment of the Day, by Michael West, on the post, The Desperate “Gunsplaining” Dodge’: Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Comment of the Day, Environment, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Social Media

More Comment Of The Day Weekend… Comment Of The Day (4): “An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay…”

Luke G ends this  Comment of the Day writing,   “Hm, that was longer than I expected, but what’s a good analogy if you can’t follow it through to the end?”

He’s right: it’s an excellent analogy for the value of freedom of speech, and one I don’t recall having encountered before.

Here is his COTD on the post, An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay Advocating Limits On Speech…?

This argument is a clash between two viewpoints. For those of us who value free speech, the structure and procedure are immutable, and the outcomes proceed from there. We see free speech, along with the various other liberties guaranteed in the US, as an intrinsic part of a free and open society. The freedoms themselves have intrinsic value, and the national culture that rests on them is a SIGN that they are good, rather than the REASON they are good. Rich soil is healthy and good, whether it’s growing anything or not- we don’t say good soil is useful because of the beans it grows, we look at the beans as proof that we chose our soil well. The fact that rich soil also allows weeds to spring up is an unfortunate side effect.

For those like the author of the article, their outcome is immutable, and the procedure to get there is malleable depending on their goal. Their worldview defines what outcomes are good or bad- structures that produce bad outcomes are bad structures, and those that produce good outcomes are good structures. These people see cultural cause and effect not like a field but like a factory, where there’s no such thing as a good machine that makes some good and some bad parts… if it produces any bad parts it’s a bad machine that should be upgraded or eliminated at the first opportunity so only the desired product is created. Universal free speech may have been the best machine available, but now there is the perceived power to fix it so only the desirable speech is free and the defective speech is suppressed, so it’s only logical to do so. Continue reading


Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society

In A Photo Finish Race For Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month, Ohio State Wes Retherford (R) Edges Texas State Rep. Jessica Farrar (D)

Both are embarrassments to their parties, their states, and the voters who elected them, however.

First the winner: Ohio State Representative Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, who was discovered over the weekend passed out drunk in his car with a loaded firearm at a McDonald’s drive-thru . Wes was arrested by Butler County sheriff’s deputies, and faces charges of operating a vehicle under the influence and improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, because there is no current criminal law covering unbelievably stupid conduct by an elected official.

Retherford was easily re-elected in November in the heavily Republican district, even though voters had to know he was a drunk. He had to defeat a challenger in the GOP primary after another candidate gained the party’s endorsement because Retherford had been criticized for “partying.” “Partying” is a euphemism, in this case, for “has a serious drinking problem and is likely to end up  passed out drunk in his car at a McDonald’s drive-thru with a loaded firearm. The Ohio House Speaker even had to order a drinks cart removed from Retherford’s office because it violated House rules. People voted for him anyway. They must be so proud.

Our runner-up is a different brand of fool, but a fool nonetheless: Texas State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat, offered what she termed a “satirical bill”  that would fine men for masturbating, allow doctors to refuse to prescribe Viagra and require men to undergo a medically unnecessary rectal exam before any elective vasectomy. Farrar says that she knows her bill will never pass, but says she hopes it will start a conversation about abortion restrictions. Continue reading


Filed under Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Now THAT’S A Terrible Analogy…


Daniel L. Byman, a Brookings Institute researcher, authored an article on the organization’s site that would be fun to dissect in its entirety, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. I also have confidence that any half-objective reader can easily see through it without my assistance. Byman is determined to show that radical Islamic terrorism is nothing for U.S. citizens to get their panties in a bunch over, and like so much coming out of places like Brookings these days, his essay is part brief to absolve President Obama from all criticism. Byman also excels in torturing statistics to make his case, leading to the analogy in question:

“With this picture in mind, the challenges facing the United States [in dealing with terrorism] can be broken down into three issues. The first, of course, is the real risk to American lives and those of U.S. allies. In absolute terms, these are small in the United States and only slightly larger in Europe. The average American is more likely to be shot by an armed toddler than killed by a terrorist.”

I’ve had this quote stalled on a potential post list for a while, but the recent discussions here about argument fallacies revived it.

How many things are wrong with this analogy? Let’s see: Continue reading


Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

Comment of the Day: “Prelude: Intent, Gross Negligence, And ‘Extremely Careless’”

eyes closed driving

Long-time commenter (and blogger) Glenn Logan has authored not one but three COTD-worthy posts of late. I have chosen his commentary on the gross negligence/extremely careless distinction for the honor, but any of them would have been worthy choices. You can find the others in the threads here and here.

Before I get to Glenn, I want to point out that a recent and ridiculous news story illustrated the difficulty of the gross negligence/extreme carelessness distinction perfectly:

A North Florida woman is saying her prayers after running her car into a home — after saying her prayers.

The 28-year-old woman was driving in the tiny town of Mary Esther, located west of Fort Walton Beach in the Florida Panhandle. Deputies from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office say the driver told them she was praying and had her eyes closed before the incident took place.

According to NWFDailyNews.com, authorities say she ran a stop sign, going through an intersection and into the yard of a home. The driver tried to back out, but her car got stuck in sand and dirt around the home. No one was hurt inside the home and the driver was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation. She was cited for reckless driving with property damage.

Gross negligence would be praying, driving, and closing her eyes knowing well that it endangered others, and doing it anyway. Extremely careless would be praying, driving, and closing her eyes assuming that no harm would come of it, perhaps because God would be driving the car. “Reckless,” however, may cover both.

Here is Glenn’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Prelude: Intent, Gross Negligence, And ‘Extremely Careless’”: Continue reading


Filed under Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy

Prelude: Intent, Gross Negligence, And “Extremely Careless”

falling bowling ball

By now I intended to have published a thorough essay deciding the question of whether conservatives, and their claims that James Comey was part of a Justice Department conspiracy to save Hillary from indictment, were more unethical that Clinton supporters in the news media and elsewhere pronouncing her “exonerated” because she’s not facing trial. Alas, pressing matters have intervened, but no matter: I will present it soon. Meanwhile, however, allow me to clean up a relevant controversy.

Much of the mockery of Comey’s explanation of the FBI’s recommendation, since accepted with a big “Whew!” by Loretta Lynch, arises from his assertion that while Hillary’s handling of classified information was “extremely careless,” it did not arise to the standard of “gross negligence” specified in the relevant statute. Too many pundits and commentators to mention have snorted at this, arguing that there is no practical difference. Comey did not help, when he was asked the question in his Congressional testimony, by explaining the difference as one of enforcement: in a century, he said, no conduct similar to Clinton’s has ever been found to meet the “gross negligent” standard sufficiently to warrant prosecution. Attorney General Lynch, when she was asked the same question by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis), just repeated how she accepted the recommendations of Comey not to indict Clinton.

There is a difference, however. I don’t know why neither Comey nor Lynch could articulate it, but it exists, and I will now make it clear.

For this analogy I owe thanks to a D.C. lawyer, ethics expert and law professor friend of long-standing with whom I was recently discussing the Clinton matter. He has a gift for  analogies, and said this…

“Intent, is when you drop a bowling ball out of an office building window, aiming so that it will kill somebody by falling on the victim’s  head.”

“Gross negligence is when you toss a bowling ball out of an office building window without looking in order to get rid of it, knowing full well that it is mid-day and very likely to fall on someone’s head.”

“AH HA!” I interrupted. “Then ‘extreme  carelessness’ is when you toss the bowling ball out of an office building window without looking, in order to get rid of it, because it’s 3 AM and you mistakenly/ignorantly/ stupidly  assume nobody will be walking on the sidewalk at that time of night!”

“Exactly!” he said.

More to come…


Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

It’s Settled Then: Ben Carson Is An Idiot

ben-carsonNot that there was all that much doubt, after hearing about his theories that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain, and recognizing that any intelligent man would realize that giving a popular prayer breakfast speech and being a neurosurgeon no more qualifies someone to run for President of the United States than being a crossword puzzle champion or an airplane pilot. Nonetheless, his statement today ends any benefit of the doubt Carson had due to him. There is no doubt. He’s a dolt, and its obvious enough that we must assume anyone supporting him must also be a dolt.

Today, talking about the Syrian refugees in Alabama, Gentle Ben said...he really did…

“If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog. And you’re probably going to put your children out of the way. That doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs.”

Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy