Tag Archives: David Brooks

Ethical Quote Of The Month: David Brooks, Channeling Yale Law professor Stephen L. Carter

First, a bit of a disclaimer:

In his Monday column for the New York Times, David Brooks evoked Yale Law professor Stephen L. Carter‘s 1998 book “Civility” to recommend how reasonable people should engage with “fanatics.” I like the quote a lot, with this caveat: Brooks makes it clear, as almost all Times op-eds do now, that by “fanatic” he means all those strange, nasty, stupid, hateful people who don’t subscribe to the New York Times world view and progressive cant. As a result, I have to take Brooks’ words with several grains of sea salt, and indeed try to forget that they are coming from a pundit who has at other times implied that President Trump should be removed from office regardless of whether he actually does anything that would meet the standards required by the impeachment clause or the 25th Amendment.

That and other opinions he has put into print–always in the measured words of the intellectual he styles himself to be—marks him as a fanatic in my book, just one operating under the cover of gentility and intellectual rhetoric. Now, it would have been easy for Brooks to dispel my suspicions and also to have a larger audience for his wisdom had he chosen, as his example of a fanatic, a member of the antifa, or a college student who believes that conservatives should be censored, or any number of leftist nut cases who are as plentiful now as the autumn leaves. But no. Brooks knows that wouldn’t endear himself to his colleagues like Paul Krugman and Charles M. Blow, so his first example of a fanatic, and his only American one, was “a Trump supporter” who threatened him at a baseball game.

Thus Brooks’ column manages to be condescending and arrogant, as well as partisan, because of his failure to harness his biases. The substance of his quote, however, comes via Terry Teachout, the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal, the critic-at-large of Commentary and a thoughtful moderate for an arts guy, and through Amy Alkon, a moderate conservative feminist Trump-hating blogger and author, and Professor Carter, who seems like a reasonable and not especially political sort. This is enough, I think, to cleanse Brooks’ words of their inherent hypocrisy. Deciding that those who disagree with you must be the fanatic in the conversation is, after all, a poor starting point for a productive discussion.

With those reservations and qualifications, here is the quote: Continue reading

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Bret Stephens’ Capitulation To New York Times’ Anti-Second Amendment Culture

The New York Times, to nobody’s surprise, is all-in to assist its progressive compatriots in using  every tragedy involving guns to strip away the core individual right to bear arms.  The op-ed pages and website , have, once again, become an oppressive barrage of anti-gun fanaticism and disinformation. Take this morning, for example. There is Timothy Eagan’s claim that the Second Amendment is a “cancer in the Constitution.” “The Second Amendment,” he writes, in the process of declaring the individual right enshrined in the Amendment abd confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court as null and void, “as applied in the last 30 years or so, has become so perverted, twisted and misused that you have to see it now as the second original sin in the founding of this country, after slavery.”

Other aspects of American ideals, traditions, values and cultures that Eagan’s allies on the Left also consider cancers would include, I imagine, the Electoral College, Due Process (see: the Obama Education Department’s now defunct “Dear Colleague” letter), Freedom of Speech (“Hate speech kills!”), Freedom of Religion,  Equal Protection,  the Commerce Clause and, of course, the requirement that impeachment has to be based on a substantive crime. We get it, Tim: the Constitution is an infuriating roadblock to turning the U.S. and its culture into a clone of Sweden.

Then there is David Brooks, once the token conservative among the Times otherwise leftist columnists until his brain was removed while he slept and thoroughly washed. In today’s exhibit of Brooksian pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook, he bemoans “the left’s massive failure to persuade.” (The failure to persuade in this case is based on an escalating failure to be honest, vilifying adversaries, and the fact that the left’s strategy is based on emotion a biased presumption that the right to bear arms is “a cancer on the Constitution.”) Brooks also begins with that assumption, but as usual buries his motives in false objectivity: he writes, for example,

“The research doesn’t overwhelmingly support either side. Gun control proposals don’t seriously impinge freedom; on the other hand, there’s not much evidence that they would prevent many attacks.”

Then he declares the controversy an “epiphenomenon”—I think I know what that means, but I don’t trust writers who use words like that—to end with,

“Today we need another grand synthesis that can move us beyond the current divide, a synthesis that is neither redneck nor hipster but draws from both worlds to create a new social vision. Progress on guns will be possible when the culture war subsides, but not before.”

Brooks began with the presumption that “progress on guns” means acceptance of the anti-gun position on guns. Of course he did.

The day before, the New York Times’s new token conservative columnist had thrilled the anti-gun Left with his latest column, ‘Repeal the Second Amendment.

He deserves credit in one respect: unlike his liberal colleagues who would kill the individual right to gun ownership by incremental cuts, at least Stephens is honest. His arguments, however, are lazy and shallow. Indeed, the entire piece reads like clickbait , or perhaps something written with an editor’s gun—well, crossbow—at his head.

He writes, “From a law-and-order standpoint, more guns means more murder. “States with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides,” noted one exhaustive 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.”  This is a fake and misleading stat arrived at by including suicides among actual murders. Since 1990, the homicide rate has dropped like stone while gun ownership has risen. “More guns mean more murder” is not even a defensible opinion; it certainly isn’t fact. He should have checked with David Brooks on that.

The whole essay is like this, however, He begins by writing, “I have never understood the conservative fetish for the Second Amendment.” It’s not a “fetish,” and it’s not intrinsically conservative. Belief in the Second Amendment springs from a commitment to individual liberty and inherent suspicion and distrust of expanding governmental power that insists that only the State, and not the citizens it is supposed to serve, should possess deadly force.

In a terrific rebuttal in The Federalist, David Harsanyi writes, “As an American-Jew whose ancestors came here escaping both Nazism and communism, I totally ‘get’ the Second Amendment ‘fetishists.’And when I read columns like the one Stephens wrote today, I definitely get it.”  For Stephens’ argument reduces to “Resistance is futile”–Come on, he asks, how are a bunch of pathetic citizen gun owners going to resist the government? Better to just submit: I swear, we can trust these people! I work with them every day! They only want the best for everyone!” Stephens writes like he has Stockholm Syndrome. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/16/2017

 Isn’t it a lovely morning?

1. This isn’t the first post of the day: I woke up around 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep (“As My Guitar Gently Weeps” was playing over and over in my head, don’t ask me why, and images from the Red Sox 16 inning loss to the Yankees was giving me the night terrors), so I went to the office and wrote this post. Charlie Green, critic and friend, properly pointed out that my comment in passing that incorrectly alluded to rumors about Joseph P. Kennedy being a bootlegger was exactly what my  post was criticizing David Brooks for doing in his attack on the entire Trump family, going back generations, a truly ugly op-ed.

What I was sorely tempted to say was that I’m just an ethics blogger, trying to focus attention on ethics standards in a daily blog from which I receive no income and intangible professional benefits if any. I mange to get 2000-4000 words published every 24 hours, working in short bursts while I try to earn a living, run a business, do research and be as good a father and husband as I can be. I have no editors, no researchers (except generous volunteers) and my blog is not a “paper of record” for journalists, seen by millions and paid for by subscribers. Is it really fair to hold Ethics Alarms to the same standards as David Brooks and the New York Times?

Make no mistake: my own standards are that no typo, no misstated fact, no misleading argument, are acceptable on an ethics blog, or any blog, or anything published on the web. Charles was right: using an unproven accusation of long-standing (Until Charles flagged it, I thought the bootlegging charge was a matter of public record) undermines my case against Brooks. Nonetheless, Brooks has absolutely no excuse. This is all he does, he has all week to produce a column or two, and he has a staff.

I’ve also corrected my error within hours of making it. What are the chances that Brooks and the Times will ever admit that they intentionally impugned the character of Fred Trump using rumors and innuendo as part of their ongoing effort to demonize the President of the United States?

My guess: Zero.

2. The big story this morning appears to be O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing. Will he be paroled and released after serving just nine years of the three-decade sentence he received for his participation in a burglary? Assuming that it is true that O.J., now 70 and unlikely to stab any more ex-wives and innocent bystanders to death, has been a model prisoner, yes, that would be the ethical result. O.J. got away with a double murder—he will not be asked at the hearing, “Once you’re out, can we assume that you’ll renew your relentless hunt for the real killer?”—but he wasn’t put in prison for that crime. Officially, he’s innocent. His fellow burglars were all put on probation, while the judge threw the book at the former football star, presumably to exact a measure of societal revenge for Nicole and Ron. The sentence was unethical. I don’t feel sorry for O.J. at all; I’m glad he had to serve hard time, just as I would have been happy if he had been squashed by a meteor. Justice, however, demands that he go free.

The bastard. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: NYT Columnist David Brooks [UPDATED}

“Biographies describe a man intent on making his fortune and not afraid of skating near the edge to do so. At one point, according to Politico, federal investigators found that Frederick used various accounting measures to collect an extra $15 million in rent (in today’s dollars) from a government housing program, on top of paying himself a large “architect’s fee.” He was hauled before investigating committees on at least two occasions, apparently was arrested at a K.K.K. rally in Queens (though it’s not clear he was a member), got involved in a slush fund scandal with Robert Wagner and faced discrimination allegations.”

—New York Times columnist David Brooks arguing that Donald Trump, Jr.’s conduct in holding the controversial meeting  with some Russians and Russian-Americans to acquire useful negative information about Hillary Clinton for his father’s campaign came about because his family is just no damn good, as shown by the conduct of Fred Trump, the President’s storied father.

Unlike some commentators, I have no ethical problem with Brooks’ basic thesis. Culture molds ethics, children are influenced by the conduct and values modeled by their parents, and I have pointed out too many times to  count that Donald Trump doesn’t know ethics from a merry-go-round, and appears to have no  conventionally functioning ethics alarms at all. It makes perfect sense that Donald Jr. would grow up similarly handicapped.

However, Brooks’ evidence that Trump family patriarch Fred Trump was corrupt and without scruples is all innuendo and supposition, and thus dishonest, incompetent, and unfair. Let’s examine the components of Brooks’ attack:

  • “federal investigators found that Frederick used various accounting measures to collect an extra $15 million in rent (in today’s dollars) from a government housing program, “

Were the accounting measures illegal? Apparently not. Was the  “architect’s fee”? I guess not: Fred wasn’t indicted or prosecuted. Being investigated by the feds does not prove or indicate wrongdoing. Maybe Fred was cheating; I wouldn’t be surprised. But Brooks has no facts to support that assumption, just a pejorative characterizations.

  • “He was hauled before investigating committees on at least two occasions…”

I love the “hauled.” Being asked to testify isn’t evidence of wrongdoing either. Continue reading

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The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part II: The Press Conference

press-conference

Based on the hysterical—yes, that’s a fair word—reaction from pundits and reporters to the President’s news conference last week, I assumed there had to be something that the transcript didn’t pick up, like he was wearing a Gooney bird on his head, or naked, or bit someone. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews called the President “manic” and compared him to Soviet spy Alger Hiss.  Brian Williams described it as an unhinged” press conference “brought to you by narcissism, thin-skinned chaos, and deeply personal grievances.” CBS This Morning’s  co-host Norah O’Donnell called the 77 minute affair “astonishing…an unprecedented display of accusations and exaggerations.” Fellow co-host Gayle King chimed in: “The President’s outburst of frustration left many observers bewildered.”

A response to the session that really was unhinged came from New York Times columnist David Brooks, who clarified for  me what the indignant political elite sound like when they have finally been backed into a corner, writing,

“Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.”

From this, Brooks concluded, disgracefully,

“This does not feel like a sustainable operation. On the other hand, I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.”

Damn elections! What does Brooks think he is talking about? Trump has accomplished many things he promised to do in less than a month; it is one of the most productive first 30 days any President has had in history. He has appointed an excellent Supreme Court Justice. The stock market is booming. When has any President been judged “failing” or been “eased out” after a month, or three, or six, or ever, absent criminal activity? Never. Brooks, like Democrats and the news media, are pronouncing the Trump Presidency dead because they don’t like him, his style, or what he wants to do. That does not justify writing as if he has done anything to justify removing him, except that this is the theme of the “resistance.”

Citing cherry-picked negative polls, like, say, the ones that said Trump had no chance of winning the election, Brooks then gives his blessing to undemocratic, insubordinate and seditious conduct to undermine an elected President:

“The Civil Service has a thousand ways to ignore or sit on any presidential order. The court system has given itself carte blanche to overturn any Trump initiative, even on the flimsiest legal grounds. The intelligence community has only just begun to undermine this president.”

A responsible newspaper doesn’t publish this.

Then I watched the whole conference.  I thought back to the first debate, which I thought Trump blew horribly. Charles Krauthammer sneered after the debate and said it was the end of Trump’s candidacy, and that everyone could see now that he was shallow, clownish, and unfit to lead. I agreed heartily.

Clearly, Charles and I missed something. Continue reading

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Does The Pentagon Hiding Its Waste Of 125 Billion Dollars Qualify As An Obama Administration Scandal? Nah! Don’t You Know That The Obama Administration Is Scandal Free?

the_pentagon

Scandals? In the Obama Administration? Of course not! David Brooks said so, remember?

“President Obama has run an amazingly scandal-free administration, not only he himself, but the people around him. He’s chosen people who have been pretty scandal-free. And so there are people in Washington who do set a standard of integrity, who do seem to attract people of quality.”

The IRS targeting conservative groups to blunt their influence on an election? Not a scandal! HHS rolling out a non-functional website for Obamacare that cost 2 billion dollars? The Veterans Administration being mismanaged at epic proportions while veterans died waiting for care? Jonathan Gruber’s declaration that Obamacare depended upon the “stupidity of American voter”? The Secret Service showing utter incompetence repeatedly? The head of the CIA giving classified information to his mistress? The NSA allowing a low-level contractor to steal and publish crucial secrets? The Office of Personnel Management allowing hundreds of thousands of government employees to have their sensitive information hacked? Unprecedented sexual harassment and assault in the Armed Services? Fast and Furious? Wait, wasn’t there a Secretary of State who violated her own department’s security policies, covered it up, lied about it, and did so with the knowledge of the President? The Attorney General meeting with the husband of a target of an FBI investigation, when that husband was the former President who once promoted that AG? No scandals?

Nah, President Barack Obama administration is scandal free!

I was watching CNN and Headline News this morning specifically to see if the Washington Post’s scoop last night was deemed worthy of mention. Of course, it wasn’t, and so far, almost all of the mainstream news media apparently believes that it’s less important for Americans to know about than, well, just about everything. Here what Google’s software ways are the top stories based on what the web is reporting:

Donald Trump
Oakland
Manchester United F.C.
College football
Westworld
Seattle Seahawks
Manuel Valls
OPEC
New York Jets
Pat McCrory

Clearly, what the  Post’s Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward  reported last night is trivia—fake news, really, since we know there are no scandals in the Obama Administration: Continue reading

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David Brooks’ Dirty Hit On Ted Cruz: How Pundits Lose Credibility

That's some role model you've chosen there, David

That’s some role model you’ve chosen there, David

…or at least deserve to.

Here is how New York Times columnist David Brooks begins his character evisceration of Ted Cruz:

“In 1997, Michael Wayne Haley was arrested after stealing a calculator from Walmart. This was a crime that merited a maximum two-year prison term. But prosecutors incorrectly applied a habitual offender law. Neither the judge nor the defense lawyer caught the error and Haley was sentenced to 16 years.

Eventually, the mistake came to light and Haley tried to fix it. Ted Cruz was solicitor general of Texas at the time. Instead of just letting Haley go for time served, Cruz took the case to the Supreme Court to keep Haley in prison for the full 16 years.

Some justices were skeptical. “Is there some rule that you can’t confess error in your state?” Justice Anthony Kennedy asked. The court system did finally let Haley out of prison, after six years.”

From this, Brooks goes on to conclude…

…Cruz’s behavior in the Haley case is almost the dictionary definition of pharisaism: an overzealous application of the letter of the law in a way that violates the spirit of the law, as well as fairness and mercy….Cruz’s speeches are marked by what you might call pagan brutalism. There is not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy. Instead, his speeches are marked by a long list of enemies, and vows to crush, shred, destroy, bomb them.

Cruz’s behavior in the Haley case [Dretke v. Haley] does nothing of the sort. The columnist intentionally—I’m assuming that he read the case, now—misrepresented what the case was about, how the court reacted, and what Cruz’s ethical duties were regarding it. As it happens, I share much of Brooks’ dislike of Cruz’s rhetoric. This case, however, tells us nothing about Cruz’s character. It tells us that that as Solicitor General of Texas, Cruz did his job, which was to represent his client’s position.

James Taranto, the pretty damn brilliant Wall Street Journal blogger, wit and conservative pundit, nails Brooks to the wall. He writes in part… Continue reading

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