Tag Archives: appeal to authority

Dear Idiots: Please Stop Making Me Defend The Bigoted Baker

I am pleased that the Supreme Court will be taking the case of Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple because, he said, they wanted it to be customized, and doing so would offend his faith.  His claim is based on the First Amendment, which prevents the government from making you say what you don’t want to say as much as it prevents the government from stopping you from saying what you want to.

Colorado’s courts denied that Phillips was doing anything but saying that he doesn’t like or respect gays sufficiently to make the exact same cake for them that he would make for non-gays.  I agree with their holding that his actions violated the public accommodations laws. I wrote when this case first reared its frosted head…

“The court’s conclusion  is impossible to rebut. The cake the baker was asked to bake for the gay wedding differed not at all from one he would normally sell a straight couple. In truth, this had nothing to do with expression. He was just refusing to serve a gay couple because of their sexual orientation. Selling them a standard cake would neither constitute, nor would it be recognized as a “message” in support of gay marriage.

The Court agreed that a wedding cake with a customized message celebrating a same-sex marriage as such might implicate First Amendment speech issues, but “we need not reach this issue,” the court said. “We note, again, that Phillips denied Craig’s and Mullins’ request without any discussion regarding the wedding cake’s design or any possible written inscriptions.”

In other words, Phillips was gratuitously and unnecessarily being a cruel jerk. An alleged Christian who is unable to detect the basic Golden Rule application in treating fellow citizens with the minimal level of respect inherent in allowing them to buy a standard wedding cake requiring no “Yay Gay!” or “Charlie and David Forever!” messages in pink frosting deserves no sympathy or quarter from the law. Could the couple have just shrugged and found another bakery? Sure, they could have. Linda Brown could also have just shrugged and found an all-black school to attend, too.

The gay couple are not the villains here. Jack Phillips broke the social contract, as well as the law.”

Now that SCOTUS has decided, by agreeing to review the case,  that he has perhaps a scrawny, shaky legal leg to stand on before thy kick it out from under him, Phillips and his lawyer are taking a premature victory lap, as if making it quite clear that you think gays are second class citizens is something to be proud of (and, sadly, too many still think it is.) Their publicity campaign took them all the way to The View, a wise choice. After all, nothing can make an unethical position seem more persuasive than when it is being attacked by idiots, and idiots of the left-wing persuasion are pretty much what ABC’s “Six Opinionated Female B and C List Celebrities Sitting Around Slamming Conservatives”  daytime show has to offer. (To be fair, the show usually has one even dumber right-wing idiot on hand to make the left-wing idiots seem astute by comparison.) Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Comment of the Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/30/17.”

As he usually does, when he’s feeling frisky,  reader Extradimensional Cephalopod (above right) has dived into the issue of “health care rights” with gusto and perception. As I often do whether I’m feeling frisky or not, I have some cavils about the assumptions being made at the outset.

A right is a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to be able to do something. Moral and legal rights are two different things. When someone says, as did my friend on Facebook that started this debate. “I believe health care is a right,” he had to be asserting a moral right to healthcare, since a legal right to health care doesn’t exist. If he said, “I believe health acre should be a right,” then he would have clearly meant a legal right. That’s a policy issue. When someone argues that there is a moral right, then they are making the case for a legal right that doesn’t exist. The law in an ethical society ought to protect and advance moral rights, and society must agree what those rights are. Thus when he says, early on, “Note that a right isn’t something we owe Note that a right isn’t something we owe people just because they exist.,” he signals that he is describing legal rights only.   Moral rights are what we owe  people just because they exist. That’s why the Declaration begins with Jefferson saying that “we are endowed by our Creator” with “unalienable rights.”

Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod‘s Comment of the Day on #5 in the post, “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/30/17.”

Let’s start at the beginning. We need to define the phrase “healthcare is a right”.

A “right” is a protection or entitlement we collectively decide to give to people at the expense of our some of our freedoms because we think that society will be more robust, sustainable, able to advance, or generally pleasant to live in as a result. That’s very similar to the basis for ethics, as far as I can tell. A right is a meta-law, a limitation on what laws can be made. Rights may be conditional. Note that a right isn’t something we owe people just because they exist. It’s something we decide we owe them because we want to live in a world where people have that right–because it’s safer for us, or because it means the world will still be there for our descendants, or because it allows civilization to progress to something better, or because we want others to be happy, or all of the above. This will be important later.

Therefore, when we say, “healthcare is a right”, what we mean is “in order to make society more robust, sustainable, able to advance, or generally pleasant, we choose to sacrifice some of our individual freedoms to provide everyone with healthcare.”

We’re half done. Now, what is “healthcare”?

Let’s actually distinguish it from health insurance, because we’re smarter than Congress. Health insurance, like any insurance, is a gamble, in which people periodically pay a small amount of money to an insurance company, which will pay them back a larger amount of money (whatever is necessary, to the limit of what they are insured for) if the person’s health is in danger in a way that neither of them can predict. The idea is that the insurance company can’t predict who needs the money, but they can predict how many will need money and how much, statistically, so they accept enough money from people that they can afford to pay the people who end up needing more money. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/30/17

1. Traffic here is cratering in the run-up to the 4th, guaranteeing that for one of the few months in Ethics Alarms history, June 2017 will have seen significantly less traffic than its previous year’s equivalent. 2017 and 2016 are now in a dead heat.

I have some theories: by this point last year the campaign was heating up, and I was being sufficiently critical of both parties and candidates to make everyone happy. Ethics Alarms also started getting a lot of those paid Hillary shills commenting; I banned more commenters in 2016 by far than any other year. Also because of the campaign, there were an unusual number of posts shared by hundreds and even thousands of readers, as well as a record number of the anomalous posts that double or even triple the daily average. Those, I have found, are completely unpredictable. What I consider important or especially astute essays almost never attract readership; the runaway posts are usually about something relatively trivial.

On the other hand, the blog has many more followers in 2017, more consistently high-quality comments, and, as my life partner continues to remind me with dagger glances, revenue is holding steady…

2. There was another Ethics Hero tale to tell yesterday, though the only one I had time for was the group in Texas that bought a car for a young fast-food worker.

Major League Baseball umpire John Tumpane, assigned to a Pittsburgh Pirate home series, was walking from his hotel to the ball park across the Roberto Clemente Bridge when he saw woman climb over the railing to the outside of the bridge. He decided to approach her, and in response to his queries, she told Tumpane she just wanted to get a better view of the Allegheny River below.

The look on her face and the tone of her voice told Tumpane otherwise, so he grabbed her and refused to obey her demands that she let her go…and jump. Another  bystander saw what was going on and joined him, grabbing the woman’s free arm. A third grabbed her legs through the railing as Tumpane implored the gathering crowd to call 911. The three men held on  until emergency responders arrived. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society, Workplace

Presenting The First New Rationalization Of 2017: #32A Imaginary Consent, or “He/She Would Have Wanted It This Way”

roxieThe addition of  New Rationalization #32A Imaginary Consent, or “He/She Would Have Wanted It This Way” to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List became obligatory after it got a work-out over the holidays. Disney turning long dead character actor Peter Cushing into a zombie performer for the new “Star Wars” film was defended with the claim, which was almost surely also used by his heirs who were paid handsomely for the use of Cushing’s CGI avatar.

And that’s always the way this rationalization arrives. Someone wants to profit through some dubious scheme or transaction, and uses the argument that a revered and quite dead family member, personage of importance or icon “would have approved,” or “would have wanted it.” Like its progenitor 32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,” which employs misdeeds of presumably admirable figures of the past as precedent for misdeed in the future, this is an appeal to irrelevant authority. Worse, Imaginary Consent presumes what cannot possibly be determined without prior express statements from the deceased.

This is one reason why DNR (“Do not resuscitate”) orders are essential. Using a fictional consent to absolve a decision-maker from actual responsibility is both a dodge and cowardly, as well as dishonest. I remember the horrible day that my sister and I were called upon to decide whether to terminate my mother, who was unconscious, on life support and beyond recovery. We made the decision quickly, and what my mother “would have wanted” was never a factor. (She had delegated the decision on her own DNR to my sister.) What my mother wanted, we both agreed, was to live forever. She would have been willing to have her comatose body waiting for a miracle or a cure until the hospital crumbled around her….in fact, that’s why she delegated the decision without instructions. Sure, it would have been easier to fool ourselves with #32A. But it would have been a lie.

The other true story this rationalization makes be think of is the time the elderly parents of a friend decided to euthanize their wonderful, bounding, big and joyful dog Roxie, some kind of a felicitous hybrid between a boxer and a freight train. They were moving into a resort where dogs were not allowed.  I was aghast, but they insisted, “We just know Roxie wouldn’t be happy living with anyone else.”

I argued(they did not appreciate it), “You know what? I bet if she could talk, Roxie would say, ‘You know, I really like you guys, really, and I’ll miss you a lot, but on balance I think I’d rather keep living, thanks. I’ll miss you, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get over it. Have a great time in Florida.'”

They killed her anyway.

#32A is a way to pass off responsibility for an ethically  dubious decision on someone who is beyond participation in that decision, and sometimes even the victim of it. It is cowardly, unaccountable, and based on an assertion that may not be true.

___________________

Special Thanks to Reader/Commenter Zoltar Speaks!, who suggested the new entry.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Family, Health and Medicine

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.)

OK, have I got this straight, Congressman? You want to abolish the Electoral College, because its antidemocratic, but before you do, you want to use it to overturn an election that you agree was fair and square. Got it. You're an idiot.

OK, have I got this straight, Congressman? You want to abolish the Electoral College, because it’s antidemocratic, but before you do, you want to use it to overturn an election that you agree was fair and square. Got it. You’re an idiot.

Now a member of Congress has sided with the history-addled cheating advocates who are pressuring Republican electors to overturn the results of the 2016 election. One might expect electors to be this ignorant and confused, since they are not vetted or qualified and may be, for all voters know, self-righteous paramedics.  Smug and partisan social justice warriors using fake names are also not surprising us when they advocate something this unethical. However, we should be able to expect our elected representatives to have more respect for and understanding of our system. Unfortunately, we can’t.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) concedes that Donald Trump won the election “fair and square.” (This is a small point in Himes’ favor, at least, since so many of his political brethren won’t even admit that). Nonetheless, he has announced that electors should defy the electorate and make Hillary Clinton President when they gather on December 19to  vote,despite the fact that Trump beat Clinton by winning states that gave him, or were supposed to, 306 Electoral College votes.

Himes’s “argument“ mark him as a bona fide idiot. We should not have bona fide idiots in Congress.

“We’re 5 wks from Inauguration & the President Elect is completely unhinged. The electoral college must do what it was designed for,” he tweeted yesterday. No, in fact, that was not what it was designed for. The Electoral College was designed to prevent big states in a federal system from dictating to the other states, which might not share their culture or sensitivities. Imagine a big, wacko state like California dominating our politics. In fact, that’s exactly what would happen without the Electoral College. In the election just completed, Clinton won the Golden Bankrupt Illegal Immigrant-Enabling State by almost 4 million votes, while Trump got more votes than  Clinton in the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.  That’s why we have the Electoral College, and a more brilliant device the Founders never devised. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Dunce: Texas Elector Christopher Suprun [UPDATED]

Shut up, Chris; shut up, Alexander.

Oh, shut up, Chris; you too,, Alexander.

Another faithless Texas elector has announced himself. This time, it’s Christopher Suprun, the latest previously anonymous figure to exploit the 2016 Presidential candidacy of Donald Trump for 15 minutes of fame. Let’s see: there was Trump’s former lawyer, who breached or nicked several legal ethics duties to get a column in the Huffington Post, Trump’s ghostwriter, and all of the women who never saw fit to complain of being sexually assaulted by the President Elect until their accusations could do maximum harm and spark maximum exposure. Now we have Suprun, who penned a self-righteous op-ed for the New York Times explaining why he feels he is entitled, all by himself, to ignore the will of the people and cast his vote as elector for someone other than the candidate Texas insisted he pledge to vote for: the winner of the most votes by participating Texas citizens in the November 12 election.

The measure of Suprun’s gravitas and qualifications to take this responsibility on himself is aptly illustrated by the first of his justifications for his untenable position: “Mr. Trump goes out of his way to attack the cast of “Saturday Night Live” for bias.” Naturally, he appeals to the authority of Alexander Hamilton, whose various employments in the post-election train wreck has convinced me that he, not Old Hickory, really should move off the currency and make way for someone with the right number of chromosomes. If I hear one more quote from Federalist Paper 68—which no one is 100% certain that Hamilton even wrote—I may strip off my clothes and run screaming Norse epithets into the night. Assuming, as most do, that the author was Hamilton, so what? The paper was written after the Constitutional Convention. Hamilton’s concept for that document and the structure of the government was rejected. He didn’t trust the public, or democracy, wanted George Washington to be king, and championed a system the resembled Great Britain’s. Using him to justify a concept of the Electoral College that has never been employed or accepted in the United States is a classic logical fallacy. Continue reading

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Spectacularly Incompetent Candidate Of The Month: Paul Ryan Challenger Paul Nehlen

"This is Paul. Won't you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist  policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To "Educate Paul." a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause."

“This is Paul. Won’t you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To Educate Paul a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause.”

This was the guy that Donald Trump was supposedly going to endorse as retribution for Speaker Ryan’s negative comments? It’s comforting, isn’t it, that Trump isn’t that irrational? Ann Coulter is, but Trump isn’t. (At least in this case.)

Paul Nehlen is the arch conservative and certifiable ignoramus who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District’s Republican primary. Interviewed last week on “Chicago’s Morning Answer,” Nehlen said that he wonders why we have any Muslims in the country, and suggested that there should be a public debate about tossing Muslims out of the U.S.

Here’s a partial transcript of the relevant comments Nehlen made to hosts Amy Jacobson and Dan Croft: Continue reading

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