Tag Archives: appeal to authority

Late Verdict On The Helsinki Press Conference Freak-Out: I’m Convinced. It’s Just More Unethical, Double-Standard, Anti-Trump, “Resistance” And News Media Coup-Fodder, Only Noisier And Dumber Than Usual

I don’t appeal to authority very often.

What I do occasionally do is look for someone with judgment, experience and honesty I trust whose assessment of a particular situation jibes with my ethical analysis at times when I have begun to judge my own sanity. When I started reading people writing, in horror-stricken tones,”Can you believe what Trump said at that joint press conference?,” which I initially missed because these events are always stagey, insincere, all-puffery affairs, I assumed that President Trump finally done something really over-the-top this time, like spitting at CNN reporter, or singing “The Volga Boatman” to irritate Putin. When I read what he in fact did say, and saw the videos, my brain literally couldn’t reconcile it with the hysterical claims that it was “treasonous,” or like “Pearl Harbor,” or “Kristallnacht” or warranted impeachment (Plan N). It didn’t compute, as the robot in “Lost in Space” used to say.

I know I don’t often seem like it, but I have my doubts sometimes. I write as if I am certain I am right, because that’s my style, but often within me there meet a combination of antithetical elements which are at eternal war with one another. Driven hither by objective influences — thither by subjective emotions — wafted one moment into blazing day, by mocking hope — plunged the next into the Cimmerian darkness of tangible despair, I am but a living ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms. All right, that was from my favorite exchange in “H.M.S. Pinafore,” but I’m not completely facetious. When I read almost every one of hundreds of Facebook friends writing, to universal agreement from their echo ch..freinds, that an extemporaneous statement in a Finnish press conference proves that Putin “has something” on the President, I begin to think, since I don’t see it at all, that the problem must be me. I am so thoroughly sick and disgusted at the relentless unethical and unprecedented efforts to interfere with this President, and his efforts to do the job he was elected to do, by Democrats, progressives, “the resistance” NeverTrumpers and the news media, that maybe my indignation against their dangerous, democratic institution-eroding vengeance because this odd and offensive man shattered the dreams of the Obama Worshipers and the Clinton Conned, had finally metastasized into bias, and made me impervious to something that should have me, for once, agreeing with them. For bias makes us all stupid, you know.

That is why I was so relieved to read this, the transcript of the comments of NYU Russia expert Stephen F. Cohen, a contributing editor at “The Nation,” the most extreme leftist magazine of national prominence in the country. He is clearly NOT being driven by bias, but his analysis was exactly the same as mine:

“The reaction by most of the media, by the Democrats, by the anti-Trump people is like mob violence. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. This is the president of the United States, doing what every president… since FDR in 1943 with Stalin, meeting with the head of the Kremlin. And every president since Eisenhower, a Republican by the way, has met with the leader of the Kremlin for one existential purpose: To avoid war between the two nuclear superpowers. Today, in my considered, scholarly, long-time judgment, relations between the U.S. and Russia are more dangerous than they have ever — let me repeat, ever — been, including the Cuban missile crisis. I want my president to do — I didn’t vote for this president– but I want my president to do what every other president has done. Sit with the head of the other nuclear superpower and walk back the conflicts that could lead to war, whether they be in Syria, Ukraine, in the Baltic nations, in these accusations of cyber attacks. Every president has been encouraged to do that an applauded by both parties. Not Trump. Look what they did to him today. They had a kangaroo court. They found him guilty. And then you had the former head of the U.S. CIA, who himself ought to be put under oath and asked about his role in inventing Russiagate, calling the President of the United States treasonous. What have we come to in this country? And what is going to happen in the future?”

Whew! What a relief: I thought I was going crazy. Like Cohen, except not close to matching his scholarly efforts, I know quite a bit about how past Presidents treated Russian leaders in their various summits, meetings and diplomatic encounters. Only Trump was expected to insult the Russian leader to his face. Only Trump was asked an outrageous question inviting him to insult a Russian leader to his face. (The reporter should have been ejected from the conference.) President Trump was not only criticized for behaving as every other President has and should have behaved, but was excoriated for doing so.

I wish, of course, that the President’s rhetorical skills were not so blunt and confounding, so he could defend his own conduct without resorting to “fake new!” retorts. I wish he had the nuance and sense to simply dodge such a disruptive and irresponsible question without walking into a true “when did you stop beating your wife” question that made him choose between undermining U.S. intelligence or undermining the whole reason he was at the summit in the first place. I wish that the President was not so much like Donald Trump, in other words, but unlike Anderson Cooper, George Will, Chuck Schumer, John McCain and my hysterical Facebook Friends, I regard constantly becoming more and more irrational over something that happened 19 months ago  to be civic incompetence. Continue reading

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Gee, Trump-Haters, Is Fox News Trustworthy And Reliable NOW?

 Two Fox News stalwarts, chief Fox News anchor Shep Smith and “Judge” Anthony Napolitano (he’s not a judge, not any more) took issue on the air with criticism of “Spygate.” Let’s take the two individually…

Shep said, in part,

“President Trump has also claimed that Feds spied on his campaign with an informant,” Smith concluded. “The President calls it ‘spygate.’ Fox News can confirm it is not. Fox News knows of no evidence to support the president’s claim; Lawmakers from both parties say using an informant to investigate suspected ties to Russia is not spying, it’s part of the normal investigative process.”

Ugh.

  • Smith is not the least bit sympathetic to Trump, though Fox-bashers like to ignore this when they accuse Fox of being blind shills for the President. He tries to be objective, but slants left like most of his colleagues at other networks. So this is not, as it is being represented to be, a stunning rejection by a media ally of President Trump.
  • This popular semantical defense of the FBI using a mole in the Trump campaign remains desperate and silly. The FBI recruited an individual to seek out contacts within the Trump campaign and pass along information learned thereby to the agency. An undercover informant is a spy—it’s just that spy is a pejorative term.
  • “Lawmakers from both parties say using an informant to investigate suspected ties to Russia is not spying, it’s part of the normal investigative process” is a horrible, unethical sentence. First, if some lawmakers from both parties say Trump is a rutabaga, it doesn’t make him a rutabaga—this is naked appeal to authority. Bad Shep.

Second, who is so certain “ties to Russia” is all the “informant” was investigating? Why are they so certain? Because the FBI says so? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2018: What Do Kellyann’s Husband And The NFL Kneelers Have In Common? [Updated]

Morning in my home town, Arlington Massachusetts (where they seem to have found another body in Spy Pond….)

Good Morning!

1. George Conway is unethical. It’s really as simple as that. Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, a lawyer, has decided to take advantage of his wife’s notoriety to grab unearned influence and fame for himself. He has become a regular twitter critic of the President, routinely blasting the Administration through mostly re-tweeted commentary from other sources. This, of course, makes the Trumpophobes ecstatic, embarrasses his wife, and gives George 15 hitch-hiked minutes of fame.

Let me count the ways this is wrong:

  • He’s not contributing anything valuable to the public debate, just bolstering his wife’s enemies.  Social media-users who can’t muster their own arguments and who only appeal to authority should not be taken seriously, and if George wasn’t undermining his wife, he wouldn’t be.
  • Who he is married to is the only reason anyone pays any attention to his tweeting. Surely he knows this. Surely he knows that the result is his wife’s embarrassment, and that he he is actively working against her. This is not a James Carville-Mary Matalin act, where both spouses are independently regarded as powerful political consultants. This is spousal sabotage.
  • He’s risking his wife’s career for his own aggrandizement. I’ll say this for Trump: he’s more forgiving than I would be. I would give Kellyanne an ultimatum: get your husband to stop undermining us, dump him, or quit. This is analogous to the crazy estranged husband who keeps coming to his wife’s place of business to harass her. The employer’s completely justified message: “We can’t have this. It’s your problem; fix it, or we will.”

2.  ‘We don’t care: he’s a racist whatever he does.’ President Trump announced his long-rumored pardon of black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson yesterday. (The Times has an interesting feature about Johnson’s travails here.) Praising the President for this long over-due exoneration, an NAACP spokesman said…nah, I’m kidding, the civil rights organization didn’t say anything. However, the Congressional Black Caucus, which had urged President Obama to finally right this decades-long wrong, said…no, they had nothing to say either.  [ Correction: Originally I wrote here that John McCain, who sponsored a resolution asking for Obama to pardon Johnson,, did not signal praise for the pardon. He did, and I apologize to the Senator for the error. Thanks to Dan Abrams for the information.]

There is no reasonable argument against pardoning Johnson, and there never has been. Apparently Obama was hesitant–but then he was always hesitant—this time because Johnson had a reputation for domestic abuse. Thus I presume that the female contingent in the White House pulling Barack’s strings—Valerie and Michelle—along with the all-important advocates for the Democratic Party’s feminist base wouldn’t let him do it. Obama, a lawyer, or so I hear, must have realized that Johnson’s racist persecution by the government for being a  famous and defiant black man who openly had white female companionship had absolutely nothing to do with domestic abuse, and that misconduct a controversial figure may or may not have engaged in unrelated to an unjust criminal conviction shouldn’t play any part in a pardon assessment.

That Barack. So principled. So courageous…

3. I like David French, but...his recent op-ed for the Times attacking the NFL’s ruling on National Anthem protests going forward—if a player won’t stand respectfully, the he must stay off the field, in the locker room—is ethically obtuse. French’s point is that conservatives should champion free speech at a time when the Left is trying to suppress it. That’s a good point, and I agree wholeheartedly, but it has nothing to do with the NFL’s kneelers. I suspect that French wanted to make this argument, and negligently grabbed at the NFL policy as his chance to make it.

He writes in part, Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “On The Anti-Gun “Weapons Of War” Talking Point”

Second Amendment authority Chipper Jones. He’s an expert because he had a .303 lifetime batting average, and shoots deer….

It was gratifying that the weekend post about the “weapons of war” anti-gun rhetoric attracted a  great deal of thoughtful commentary here. I was thinking about the post again today when, as is increasingly the case, a sportswriter gratuitously injected politics into sports commentary. Baseball season is fast-approaching, and while one of the many reasons I follow the game so passionately is its ethics content, I look forward to the game to get away from politics, and incorrigible social justice warrior agitators like NBC’s Craig Calcaterra, lapsed lawyer, can’t resist misusing their sports platforms as a political soap box. 

Today he gleefully informed readers that Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones had “denounced assault weapons,” telling Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“I believe in our Constitutional right to bear arms and protect ourselves,” Jones said. “But I do not believe there is any need for civilians to own assault rifles. I just don’t.

“I would like to see something (new legislation) happen. I liken it to drugs – you’re not going to get rid of all the guns. But AR-15s and AK-47s and all this kind of stuff – they belong in the hands of soldiers. Those belong in the hands of people who know how to operate them, and whose lives depend on them operating them. Not with civilians. I have no problem with hunting rifles and shotguns and pistols and what-not. But I’m totally against civilians having those kinds of automatic and semi-automatic weapons.”

Calcaterra makes sure that we knew that the ex-Braves player is an avid hunter and owns a rife, because he apparently wants us to think that owning a gun makes an athlete an expert on the Bill of Rights. (It doesn’t, and I’m pretty sure Calcaterra knows that.)

Concludes Craig,

“While debate, often acrimonious, will no doubt continue about these matters indefinitely, it’s striking to see someone like Chipper Jones come out so strongly on the matter in the particular way that he has. It has to make people at the NRA and those who support it wonder if, when you’ve lost Chipper Jones, you’ve gone too far.”

Thus we have a lawyer appealing to the authority of a man who played baseball all through highs school, and signed a contract to be a pro baseball player at te age of 18. Call me skeptical, but I question whether he has devoted much research to the history and philosophy underlying the Second Amendment, or has read any of the judicial opinion and scholarship analyzing it. I especially question Jones’ flippant “denouncement”  given the tell-tale signs that he doesn’t understand the right to bear arms at all, beginning with the misnomer “assault rifles” and the assumption that the most popular civilian rifle in the U.S. is a “weapon of war.” He also makes the offensive assumption that he is qualified to decide what kind of fire arms other citizens “need,” a commonly expressed  attitude sharply discredited in this essay by playwright and screenwriter David Mamet.

I find myself increasingly impatient with uninformed opinions on important matters relating to our personal liberty, expressed by celebrities with no more understanding or special expertise than the typical semi-informed citizen, and often less. I am even less tolerant when I am told by journalists that attention must be paid.

Here is the Comment of the Day by Glenn Logan, who is informed on this issue, on the post On The Anti-Gun “Weapons Of War” Talking Point: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/12/2018: Sigh. It Never Ends. (Part I)

Good Morning.

Blecchh.

I can’t begin to describe how much I would rather discuss something else. But I don’t control the universe, why, I don’t know.

1 Is this Plan K? Oh, probably. Sigh.

With the rapid demise of Plan E, this time around, anyway—that’s the “let’s remove President Trump because he’s mentally disabled” plot, which was quickly reactivated once Plan J (“Let’s force the President to resign like Al Franken because of unverified sexual misconduct accusers that voters knew about when they elected him”), the over-heated reporting of alleged vulgar and arguably racist comments the President may have made in a non-public meeting would suggest that “the resistance” and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) will be fulminating and demanding dire consequences for the foreseeable future.Plan K will be “Vulgarity and undiplomatic statements about immigrants pretty much exactly like how Trump began his Presiential campaign is grounds for impeachment” or something similar. Please send me the link to the first appearance of this argument, will you?

This obviously will never end, and I despair. Democrats will never accept their obligations as citizens and regard the elected leader of the Unites States as legitimate and entitled to do his job until he is either defeated or prevails in the next election. They would prefer to dangerously divide the nation and undermine its institutions, perhaps doing permanent damage.

Yesterday, Times op-ed writer Nicholas Kristoff wrote another Trump/hate/fear-mongering piece indistinguishable from dozens—hundreds?— that have been written and published since January of last year. “Trump’s Threat To Democracy,” it was called—ironic, since the only current threat to democracy is not the President, but Kristof and his fellow travelers seeking to overthrow an elected government “by any means possible,” via Plans A-J and whatever’s next. His screed is an appeal to the authority of two Harvard profs, because as we have seen in the sad cases of Larry Lessig and Lawrence Tribe, you can find previously distinguished Harvard professors who will say almost anything to polish their progressive creds in the age of Trump Derangement.

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have a book coming out–no, I won’t plug it—that argues that Trump displays what they call “the four four warning signs” that a political leader is a dangerous authoritarian:

1.The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules.

2. He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents.

3. He or she tolerates violence.

4. He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.

“A politician who meets even one of these criteria is cause for concern,” they say. Of course, as the professors show  in their examples and  Kristoff proves in his column,  what constitutes evidence of those “warning signs” is a subjective judgment that can be manipulated and built on biased political calculations. He writes, Continue reading

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It’s A Comment Of The Day Weekend! First Up…Comment Of The Day (3): “An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay…” AND, In Related News, Another Bakery Gets Slammed In Oregon

I’m not exaggerating: I have at least four Comments of the Day stacked up on the Ethics alarms runway after this one, and there are usually COTDs arriving on Saturdays. I can’t promise to get all of them up today, especially since I’m hacking away at the 2017 Ethics Alarms Awards, and this is a long working weekend at ProEthics. Still, I will get a lot of them to you, and it’s a provocative group, as you will soon see.

But first, a prelude and some context.

An Oregon appellate court this week upheld a ruling against the owners of the since-closed Sweetcakes by Melissa,  Aaron and Melissa Klein, forcing them to pay emotional-distress damages of $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple for whom they refused to design and sell a wedding cake almost five years ago. The Klein’s argued that state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian violated state and federal laws and their rights as artists to free speech, their rights to religious freedom and their rights as defendants to  due process.

The Oregon court ruled that the Kleins’ argument that their cakes entail an artistic expression is “entitled to be taken seriously,” but it’s not enough for the couple to assert their cakes are pieces of art:

“Although we accept that the Kleins imbue each wedding cake with their own aesthetic choices, they have made no showing that other people will necessarily experience any wedding cake that the Kleins create predominantly as ‘expression’ rather than as food.”

This mess commenced  when Rachel Bowman-Cryer went to the suburban Portland bakery with her mother in January of 2013. When Aaron Klein was told that the wedding did not involve a male partner,  he said that the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. They left, but soon the mother returned to argue with Klein as Rachel sat in the car, weeping. her mother went in to speak with Klein. The mother told Klein she had once thought like him, but having two gay children forced her to see the error of her ways.  Klein retorted with Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

The complaint and action by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries followed. You can read the opinion here.

Ugh.

This case is even worse than the one currently before the Supreme Court, discussed here. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/11/2017: Boston, Racism, Morality And The Media’s Continuing Conspiracy

Good Morning!

1 That’s my town! Spotlight, the Boston Globe investigative team that was the focus of the Academy Award-winning film about its crucial role in exposing the  Catholic Church’s child-molestation scandal, has published the results of an investigation into racism in Boston. Nobody who lives in Boston or did for any length of time (like me) can find that the conclusion of the Spotlight team qualifies as news: Boston is an overwhelmingly white city—the whitest of all the major metropolitan areas—which may have softened its traditional hostility to African Americans, but that so far hasn’t changed the impression among its black residents that they are outsiders, and tolerated rather than welcome.

I love Boston, and would move back there in a heartbeat if it didn’t mean uprooting my life in unpleasant ways. The report, however, is depressing, for that ironic feature of the city was a blight on it when I lived there, and decades have failed to change it significantly.

2. Not “Morality Alarms”. Let me stick this in quickly.

A commenter on the most recent Comment of the Day on the Masterpiece Cakeshop controversy sent in a defense of the baker’s conduct based on Scripture. I stated,

I dismiss this argument out of hand.

2000 year old biases are now called ignorance. They can be justified as of their time, but pretending nothing has changed since then is indefensible and willfully obtuse. The taboos against homosexuality were a matter of common sense when procreation was essential to a tribe’s survival. Before there was psychological research and knowledge of brain chemistry, ignorance about homosexuality was excusable, and even natural. 2000 years is a long time. There is no excuse for pretending that it isn’t, that human beings haven’t learned, that knowledge hasn’t expanded, and that ancient texts are not often dangerously and cruelly out of date.

In two follow-up comments I wrote, stitching them together,

That’s not reasoning or argument, and this blog is about ethics (what’s right?) not morality (what does God say is right?)…At some point discrimination and prejudice is still discrimination and prejudice. “The Bible says I should be prejudiced” is better, sort of, than “I just hate these people,” but it also is a cover.

Needless to say, an argument that relies entirely on the Bible is just an appeal to authority. That’s not a reasoned argument, but a declaration. Nor is it possible to argue with God, who works in mysterious ways, meaning that “but that makes no sense!” doesn’t work.

This isn’t a morality blog, and never has been. Simple as that. Continue reading

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