Res Ipsa Loquitur At The Barr Hearing

No, this wasn’t Fox spin…this was the main theme of the hearings.

Yesterday’s House hearing featuring Attorney General Barr was a new low in partisan grandstanding in Congressional hearings, which by itself is astounding. That condition has made many hearings unwatchable and embarrassing for a very long time, and during the Trump administration, in  fiascos like Justice Kavanaugh’s hearing, the spectacle scarred the image of representative democracy itself. I tried to watch the recording of Barr’s hearing, and was shocked—shocked that the Democrats have become so uninterested in presenting even the illusion of fairness, shocked at the inability of the committee’s repulsive chairman, Rep. Nadler, to restrain his hateful demeanor. I cannot imagine an uglier image of the legislative branch. The transcript excerpts—I’m still waiting for the whole thing— were little easier to take. A little.

Among my Facebook friends, one particularly, a former D.C. journalist, is certifiably Trump Deranged. He literally is unable to go a day without posting a Charles Blow op-ed or the equivalent, or “Look at the horrible thing Trump tweeted!” message to go with pictures of his meals. His Facebook page is a nest of anti-Trump crazies—they flock there like addicts would head for a crack house. Yet in the middle of the Barr hearing, HE wrote, “Why won’t the Democrats give Barr a chance to speak?”

“I know your story,”  one of the more infamously dim-bulb Congressmen, Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia told Barr, interrupting him before he could complete a thought. “I’m telling my story. That’s what I’m here to do,” Barr replied.

Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the committtee’s ranking Republican, protested, “For months you have tried to get the attorney general to come, He is here. Why don’t you let him speak?” Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The U.S. Congress. Again

Actor Mark Ruffalo (he plays the Hulk in The Avengers  movies, but it wasn’t because of that role) was invited to testify before Congress last year on public policy involving  public health, chemistry, toxicology, and epidemiology. He has no expertise in these areas at all. The reason was that he starred in “Dark Waters,” which I wrote about here.

Ruffalo is a 9/11 truther, believing  that the U.S. government helped destroy the World Trade Center. That would be enough for me to ding him as an authority on anything, but he has embraced other conspiracy theories as well, like this one.

Never mind: he was presented to the public as an authority on pollution whose opinions on environmental matters have weight. The don’t, and they shouldn’t.

This is a repeat offense. Members of Congress are addicted to the unprofessional and insulting stunt of inviting actors and performers to testify as substantive witnesses on topics that they acted about in movies. As a professional director, I can state with absolute certainty that if an actor is really an expert in something their character was supposed to experience or know something about, 1) that actor is very unusual, and 2) there will still be thousands of real authorities who know a lot more.

Nevertheless, Congress keeps doing this, apparently believing that the public is so naive and gullible that they really believe that because a performer credibly pretends to know what a script-writer prepares to make them sound like the know, they really are experts. Sadly, a lot of the public does believe that. (More sadly, a lot of actors do too) Continue reading

The Massie-Kerry Exchange: Sadly, Everybody’s Stupid

First I encountered several conservative media references to an exchange between former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate John Kerry and Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.  This occurred at at a House committee hearing Tuesday on “The Need for Leadership to Combat Climate Change and Protect National Security.” The sense of the references was typified by this headline in Townhall: “Watch Incoherent John Kerry Get Destroyed Over His Bogus Climate Change Claims.”

Then, almost immediately later, I found Rolling  Stones account of the same exchange. It’s click-bait headline: “Is This the Dumbest Moment in Congressional History?”

Talk about Roshomon! How could both of these accounts possibly be accurate? Was Kerry reduced to a babbling fool by the Republican Comgressman’s deft cross examination, or did Massie embarrass himself? The truth was that everyone involved on all sides of this mini-foofaraw was, and is, stupid in one way or another, including the biased bloggers and pundits who saw what wasn’t there.

For Kerry to represent himself as any kind of expert on climate change is so silly even Democrats shouldn’t fallfor it. Yet here is Rolling Stone, saying outright, “Kerry is an expert on climate change who helped broker the Paris climate accord.” Kerry, like Al Gore and so many others whose belief in climate change doomsday predictions is based on politics rather than their comprehension or even review of the science, is just mouthing what he has been briefed to say. He has no background in science, no demonstrated aptitude for it, and has a well-established record of saying really dumb things about subjects he should be able to understand. The Paris accord was a diplomatic agreement, not a scientific one, and, of course, was symbolic and meaningless.  Kerry is an expert on symbolic and meaningless.

Massie is an MIT grad and trained as an engineer, so one could fairly expect that he is a little more legitimately conversant in climate science than Kerry, though he hardly proved it this day. He did prove that he’s no lawyer. Setting out to discredit Kerry’s climate change expert status should have been easy: just show a typical climate change model chart, like this one, Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca)

When did you first realize Maxine Waters was an idiot? I remember when I did. She was involved in the Block For Bill efforts by House Democrats during the hearings on potential impeachment for then-President Bill Clinton.  Maxine made many jaw-droppingly stupid statements but the best was when she said that we had to do something about “all these young women” tempting male law-makers and leaders, referring to Monica Lewinsky.

You know, the people of Watts have enough problems. They don’t need the added burden of a fool as their representative in Congress. On the other hand, who keeps voting for Maxine, term after term, decade after decade?

But I digress.

The latest display of Maxine’s intellectual limitations and lack of diligence and seriousness occurred to tried to engage in some anti-bank grandstanding sure to cheer the anti-capitalist Democratic base. Waters is the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee , which regulates banks. Nancy Pelosi gave her the post. Think about this next time your favorite Democrat mocks one of Donald Trump’s appointments.

During a hearing on the practices of  the nation’s biggest banks, Waters pointed an accusing rhetorical finger at a panel of seven bank CEOs  because, she said, “more than 44 million Americans that owe … $1.56 trillion in student loan debt…Last year, one million student loan borrowers defaulted, which is on top of the one million borrowers who defaulted the year before.” Continue reading

The Ethics Verdict On Rep. Polis’s Apology For Recommending That Students Be Expelled For Sexual Assaults They Probably Didn’t Commit

Apparently the demon Pazuzu and the Congressman from Boulder agree!

Apparently the demon Pazuzu and the Congressman from Boulder agree!

My rule: if you say something clearly and unequivocally with all the available evidence and defend it later in another forum, all your subsequent apology means is “Gee, I didn’t expect to get in so much trouble for that. I guess I better apologize and pretend I didn’t realize what I was doing.”

Rep. Polis of Colorado, a Democrat and clearly no student of American justice, inherited the wind with his statements in a Congressional hearing suggesting that the already manifestly unjust “predominance of the evidence standard” that the Obama administration forced on universities (you know, so women could get as many male students punished as sexual predators as possible) was too fair. First he said…

“I mean, if I was running [a college] I might say ‘well, you know, even if there’s a 20 or 30 percent chance that it happened I wouldn’t want … I would want to remove this individual. Why shouldn’t a private institution, in the interest in promoting a safe environment, use an even lower standard than a preponderance of evidence, like even a reasonable likeliness standard?”

Then he said…

“I mean, if there’s 10 people that have been accused and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, seems better to get rid of all 10 people. We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about their transfer to another university.”

Later, interviewed over the phone by Reason well after the hearing, Polis was unambiguous, and extensively defended his statements in the hearing, with no equivocation or doubt. Ah, but he did not expect so many publications, pundits, bloggers and ethicists to have such an adverse reaction to, you know, discarding due process, fairness, and basic principles of justice just to make the Democratic Party’s man-hating feminist base happy. So he apologized.

Absurdly.

He began with the Full Pazuzu: Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month AND Unethical Quote Of The Week AND… KABOOM!: Rep. Jared Polis (D-Co.)

head blows“If there’s 10 people that have been accused and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, seems better to get rid of all 10 people. We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about their transfer to another university.”

—-Colorado Democratic Representative Jared Polis, at this week’s congressional hearing on campus sexual assault.

Well, this statement made my naive, idealistic brain explode. I’m such a sap; I really still reflexively want to respect lout elected leaders, and assume they aren’t anti-democratic, totalitarian, arrogant, mean-spirited ideologues with the brains of a mole rat. What’s the matter with me? Reading a quote like this actually hurts me. It makes me want to give up, move to Madagascar, or punch the nearest smug progressive in the face.

Sure, why not kick a student out of the school he was admitted to and planned his life around because some woman accused him of unproven sexual assault? Fairness and process don’t matter; what matters is satisfying a Democratic party core constituency. If some injustice results and some innocent lives are disrupted, who cares, as long as the victims are males?

I can’t trust or respect an individual who says something this ineffably wrong and un-American to its core. Polis is a Princeton grad, a rich and brilliant entrepreneur, gay, and supposedly a civil rights advocate. Yet he thinks it is reasonable to kick a young man out of school if there’s a 1 in 5 chance that an accusation of sexual misconduct is accurate. How can this be? Is he hostile to heterosexual males? Is he a rank hypocrite? Continue reading

The Tears of Keith Ellison

The grand drama at Rep. Peter King’s Congressional hearings investigating the radicalization of American Muslims last week was provided by Rep. Keith Ellison, who broke down crying while telling the story of a Muslim-American hero, Mohammed Salman Hamdani, who rushed to lower Manhattan on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 to assist in rescue efforts, and died in the collapse of the World Trade Center. Ellison said:

After the tragedy some people tried to smear his character solely because of his Islamic faith. Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers only because he was Muslim. It was only when his remains were identified that these lies were fully exposed. Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans. His life should not be defined as a member of an ethnic group or a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow citizens.

I found the performance odd and vaguely troubling, and now that I’ve thought about it for a few days, I know why. The statement by Ellison, who converted to Islam, and the tears that accompanied it, raise a few ethical issues, beginning with the Ethics Alarms standard, “What’s going on here?” Continue reading

Accountability Alert: The “Embarrassment” Was the Nation’s, Not Colbert

In a stunning failure of perception, accountability and responsibility, the second most powerful Democratic House leader, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, actually had the gall to criticize Stephen Colbert for Hoyer’s own party’s disgraceful conduct, which was egregious enough to humiliate the institution of Congress, the democratic process, and the nation as well.

“I think it was an embarrassment for Mr. Colbert more than the House,” Hoyer told “Fox News Sunday.”
“What he had to say was not the way it should have been said.”

Unbelievable. Hoyer’s party’s own committee invited Colbert, a comedian whose shtick is mocking conservative Republicans, to testify about the wisdom of allowing illegal migrant workers to harvest crops despite the fact that he has no special expertise or credibility on the subject whatsoever. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Rep. Zoe Lofgren

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chairman of the House immigration subcommittee, has called Comedy Central’s Stephen Cobert to testify before the committee on illegal immigration policy. Colbert, who reportedly will testify as his TV persona, a pompous, none-too-conservative talk-show ideologue, has no particular expertise in the topic, other than a gag interview he had with United Farm Workers (UFW) President Arturo Rodriguez on his show. Continue reading