A Hanlon’s Razor Conundrum: The Case Of The Missing Cheerleader

cheerleader left out

This one made me want to cry.

Fourteen-year-old Morgyn Arnold grew up in Layton, Utah cheering for her six older siblings at sporting events, and worked hard to become an official cheerleader, like her father and sister before her.

Morgyn has Down syndrome, so being on the Shoreline Junior High School cheerleading squad as the team manager means more to her than being part of a cheer team does to most cheerleaders, giving her pride and a sense of achievement while providing the opportunity to make new friends. She also learned all of the dance moves so she could cheer in front of the home team crowd.

It is understandable, then, that she was, according to her family, heartbroken when the school’s yearbook came out a few weeks ago and Morgyn was not in the team picture or listed as part of the squad. What isn’t understandable is how this could happen. The school apologized and claimed it was a “mistake.” Morgyn’s sister Jordan Poole believes the cruel snub was intentional.

So do I.

Two pictures were taken, one including Morgyn, on the left, and the other excluding her. Why would there be two pictures, unless someone thought that they might choose to use the photo with only the conventionally pretty girls in it? Team mate Maddie Campbell, 15, said she did not remember whether the photographer or the team’s adviser asked Morgyn to sit out of some of the team’s photos, and does not recall hearing any explanation for the action. She says she thought it was a weird request at the time.

Well, now she knows why they did it. Sure enough, the photo without Morgyn was used in yearbooks and school social media accounts.

Hence the Hanlon’s Razor controversy. Hanlon’s Razor states that one should never assume malice when stupidity can explain conduct. But who is that stupid? And who could be that malicious?

Davis School District community relations supervisor Shauna Lund told The New York Times that the incident was “under investigation” and the school planned to work with the family to “make sure this doesn’t happen again.” Oh, I think it’s fair to say that they won’t leave out Morgyn’s photo again. THAT would really be stupid.

Then Lund mouthed the mandatory wokisms. “We also want to apologize to those who were impacted outside of that family who feel that something was done to not be inclusive. We want the student to feel like she is included in the community. We want to apologize for that mistake,” said Lund. The family doesn’t “feel” something was done: their daughter was excluded from the yearbook, which is not “inclusive” by definition.

Morgyn’s father, Jeff Arnold, is almost as bad as Lund. He said that instead of placing the blame on the school, he wanted to use the situation to raise awareness of the importance of “thoughtful inclusion and compassion.” “If we can find ways so that doesn’t happen to anyone else, that’s just what we want,” Mr Arnold said. “That’s all that matters, because we can’t go back and put it in the yearbook.”

No, but you can sue the school for negligent infliction of emotional distress. You know how to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else? Make it hurt. Don’t let these administrators get off with cheap pieties. Make it hurt enough that the little monsters who conspired to shun the Down Symdrome girl are made to regret their cruelty, and that the sleepy faculty advisor who let this happen under his or her watch is soon searching the online want ads

Poll says her sister has already forgiven everyone involved. Of course she has. Down Syndrome kids are usually instinctively kind and generous. One of their differences is that they seem to be imbued with a natural sweetness, and intrinsic ethical instincts. So, naturally, her school mates decided to rip her heart out.

Shoreline Junior High is fortunate that I am not Morgyn’s father, and if my wife Grace were her mother, the staff would have to hide out in Monument Valley. Trust me.

Post Script: Our professional journalists at work: In four sources, I found Morgyn’s name spelled Morgyn, Morgan, and Morgin, with multiple spellings appearing in the one article.

“It’s A New Week!” Ethics Warm-Up, 5/3/2021: Good Day Edition

Bad, BAD week last week, and not just for me. It was a bad week in ethics, and because of my own shortcomings, I wasn’t able to properly provide a path through it. This week will be better, starting today. At least if I have anything to say about it…

1. From “the rest of the story” files: Remember when Jonathan Papelbon attacked Bryce Harper in the Washington Nationals dugout? It was 2015, and pretty much marked the end of relief ace Paplebon’s career. Harper went on to become a mega-million dollar free agent after the 2018 season, when he signed with the Phillies for a ridiculous 30 million dollars a year long-term contract. Papelbon finally resurfaced in Boston this season as an amusingly unrestrained analyst for NESN, which broadcasts the the Red Sox games. And I recently discovered how almost right he was to accost Harper, if admittedly a bit too enthusiastically. The prompt for Pap to go grab Harper by the neck was the latter loafing down the line as he barely ran out a ground ball. Harper’s periodic lack of hustle had been a source of annoyance for years (to be fair, he was “only” being paid 2.5 million bucks to play hard in 2015), but I just saw the stats for his last year in Washington. Having been a plus-defensive player in previous years, Harper stopped hustling entirely in 2018, both in the field and on the bases. Though he had once saved over 20 runs in a season in the field alone, in his free agent year Harper cost his team over 20 runs that year, making sure he stayed healthy for the big payday to come (to be fair, he was “only” being paid 21.6 million bucks to play hard in 2018). As soon as he had a guaranteed contract with Philadelphia, Harper started playing hard again, dashing around the bases and diving in the outfield.

Both Papelbon and Harper were jerks during their careers, but nobody could accuse “Pap” of not doing his best to win for the fans, his team, its city and his team mates every single time he stepped onto a baseball field.

2. Not Harvard this time: it’s back to Georgetown! Both of my schools’ diplomas are turned to the wall of my office in a symbolic protest against their continuing unethical policies and conduct—-I’m not sure what more I can do to signal my contempt and embarrassment. Now it’s Georgetown’s turn again—I worked for the University for five years after I graduated from the Law Center—to make me wish I had graduated from a school with some integrity. Though it has been notably un-covered by the mainstream news media, Georgetown Professor Michele Swers read the words of a Ku Klux Klan leader in her “U.S. Political Systems” class for the college, but because she “did not censor” the word “nigger,” a large contingent of her students sent a smoking gun letter letter to Swers and the college’s diversity office, demanding that she apologize profusely, review all future presentation and lecture material for potential bias;  and demonstrate her “understanding of the history of the N-word and why it is inappropriate for a non-Black person to say it in any context, including an educational context.” [Pointer: Steve Witherspoon]

So far, I can find no record of a response from the university or the professor, but writing of the incident, Prof. Turley says in part,

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Stupid Or Malicious? The “Anonymous Source” For The Washington Post’s Fake “Bombshell,” Georgia Deputy Secretary Of State, Jordan Fuchs [Corrected]

jordan_fuchs

This is a Hanlon’s Razor classic. In this post, I covered the mass smear of President Trump engineered by mainstream media sources led by the Washington Post. They all claimed that while still in office, “Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction.” Direct quotes were cited in which the President supposdly told the investigator to “find the fraud,” and several of the major news organizations falsely implied that their reporters had heard those words on the tape. They had not, and the President never said them. The recording, which was supposedly destroyed, turned up, and proved that the sole “anonymous source” who characterized the conversation mislead reporters, who then misled the public.

In the Ethics Alarms essay, I stated that the Post now had an obligation to reveal its “anonymous” source, because it had no justification for protecting the identity of someone who provided false information. Yesterday, the Post did reveal her identity: Jordan Fuchs, the Georgia deputy secretary of state, who had spoken with the investigator regarding the President’s call.

So this was not just hearsay, it was double hearsay. That was the basis of a Post story that made it seem as if the President was asking an investigator to manufacture evidence of election fraud. That was the basis on which the nation was l led to believe that a Republican President was trying to undo the Georgia presidential election.

[Note of Correction: I had incorrectly suggested that the Post account was published before the Georgia Senate run-offs. That was incorrect. I apologize for the error.]

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Comment Of The Day: “Wednesday Ethics, 9/2/2020: Faking Here, Faking There, Faking, Faking Everywhere!” (Item #3, Pelosi’s Hair Appt.)

Here is zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Wednesday Ethics, 9/2/2020: Faking Here, Faking There, Faking, Faking Everywhere!,” regarding #3, which discussed the Nancy Pelosi hair salon debacle:

Pelosi demonstrates arrogant dishonesty. Again.

I wish she *had* been set up. The more politicians are compelled to be on their best behaviour 100% of the time lest their true colours be shown in public, the better.

Right now, the bar has been set so low the DNC can get away with anything, and still look and be “better” than their opponents. That is unutterably wrong, and the greatest damage caused by this Presidency. The normalising of the unacceptable.

But that’s Trump. This is Pelosi, and she shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it if we are to remedy the damage. When they go low, we have to go high. That is obviously not happening. It’s gotta stop.

***

I jumped zoebrain’s comment over two idling COTD, for several reasons. Yes, it’s short, but zoe is usually admirably concise. I was preparing a longer post about the Pelosi incident, and this comment provides a perfect opening. It also harkens back to my 2015 post, “A Nation of Assholes.” What I did not foresee was that the Trump “lowering of the bar” for the culture’s civility, integrity and ethics generally would be exploited so thoroughly by adults: I assumed that it would be the rising generations that would be corrupted. But no, unfortunately. As the follow-up posts to that one quickly acknowledged,  it was every other part of the culture, in particular Democrats and the “resistance.” Continue reading

High Noon Ethics Showdown, 4/2/2020: Reality Dawns

Yyyyyyup!

Interestingly, the usually busy street bordering on our cul de sac looks just like this right now, except Gary Cooper isn’t anywhere to be seen…

1. What? The U.S. does NOT have more Wuhan virus cases than China? How can that be??? Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), hardly a knee-jerk Trump apologist, who sits on the Senate committee that deals with classified intelligence, said the Chinese Communist Party continues to lie about the death toll from the virus. He has said information he has viewed shows the United States does not surpass China in terms of deaths. This was obvious to anyone not actively trying to use the spread of the illness for partisan advantage, but it’s nice to have confirmation.

“The claim that the United States has more coronavirus deaths than China is false,” Sasse said yesterday. “Without commenting on any classified information, this much is painfully obvious: The Chinese Communist Party has lied, is lying, and will continue to lie about coronavirus to protect the regime. Beijing’s garbage propaganda shouldn’t be taken seriously by the World Health Organization, by independent journalists, or by the American epidemiologists who are going to beat this terrible virus.”

This, of course, further impugns the news media. Stephen Kruiser wrote,

“Every day, they find new ways to reinforce the “Enemy of People” status that they have been earning every day in the Trump era. They’ve routinely scolded anyone who accurately refers to the virus as being of Chinese origin, screaming “RACISM!” as if they were getting paid each time they uttered or typed the word. What has been most insidious has been the parroting of whatever China reports about the virus. Almost everyone in American media has been acting as ChiCom public relations lackeys, taking everything that the Chinese government says and passing it along without questioning any of it.”

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Ethics Catch-Up, 12/12/2019: Special Two-Day Edition!

So far, this pre-Christmas slog has been especially horrible.

This post started out as yesterday’s potpourri, and I was interrupted just as I was about to post it. So now its a two-day edition.

1. The IG’s report embraces Hanlon’s Razor. What the report on the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged “collusion” says is that he Inspector General could find no documentation of a “conspiracy” or bias against the President, but that the FBI’s conduct was remarkably inept throughout. Hanlon Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

When the AG says that the FBI handling of the investigation raises questions about how it conducts itself in more routine matters, isn’t the obvious next step to find out? If the evidence shows that the FBI doesn’t make such “mistakes” normally, only in a situation—the investigation of a Presidential candidate from the party opposite from the one currently represented in the White House—where one would assume special care would be applied, what would that tell us? One of the AG’s revelations is that “an F.B.I. official who had to sign an affidavit attesting to the accuracy and completeness of a court filing had specifically asked about any relationship with the C.I.A. Mr. Clinesmith altered the email so that it stated that Mr. Page was “not a source,” contributing to the Justice Department’s failure to discuss his relationship with the C.I.A. in a renewal application.”

That’s interesting. And why did he lie? Just “sloppiness”? At some point, repeated errors begin suggesting bias and intent.

It is astounding that James Comey is crowing in the media about the report, when the agency he led showed itself to be thoroughly incompetent at the exact moment when trust and care were most essential. He should hide his head in a bag, as Justice Scalia liked to say.

2. Ann Althouse reads Jamelle Bouie so I don’t have to. Thanks, Ann! After making Bouie an Ethics Dunce numerous times and finding him to be biased, anti-white fool who had no business being published in any fair and responsible conversation, I stopped reading him. Fortunately, Ann Althouse has a stronger stomach than I do, and pointed readers to “Two Articles of Impeachment for Trump Are Nowhere Near Enough/The House should take its own sweet time and investigate many more aspects of the president’s perfidious behavior,”  where he openly analyzes the Democratic impeachment follies as tactic to affect the 2020 election, and, ethics-challenged that he is, endorses that clear abuse of the Constitution, writing in part,

Democrats, in other words, can use the power of impeachment to set the terms of the next election — to shape the national political landscape in their favor. In a political culture governed by negative partisanship and hyperpolarization, restraint won’t save the Democratic majority. But a relentless anti-Trump posture — including comprehensive investigations and additional articles of impeachment — might just do the trick.

He’s scum, pure and simple.

Ann responds, “Does he not hear what he is saying?! He’s telling Democrats to drop the pretense of principle and patriotism and go all out for political advantage.”

3. Benefit of the doubt! That’s rich. The New England Patriots are again implicated in a cheating controversy. I have no read several commentaries, mostly from Boston source, arguing that the team “deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

This is the most unethical, untrustworthy, win-at-all-costs team in a sports league that has no problem crippling young athletes for profit. Sure, it should be proven guilty on facts, not presumption, but a history of being deceptive and breaking rules at very least removes the “How can anyone think we would do such a thing?” factor.

4. Top stories? Below are the results of a poll that tried to determine what the public considered the “top stories” of 2019 according to the proportion of those polled who “heard a lot about” each, by party affiliation.

5.  This is propaganda, not news reporting. Time Magazine, which admittedly is an animated journalistic corpse these days, still makes headlines with its choice of its “Person of the Year,” but that nostalgic notice won’t last much longer with selections like this year’s honoree:  teenage climate change scold Greta Thunberg. The choice is dishonest, manipulative, and absurd. Her impact has been nil; her expertise is imaginary; her cause is futile, and her rhetoric is insulting and hysterical. Few Americans know her name, and the number is still higher than it should be.

Of course, the idiocy of Time’s choice doesn’t excuse President Trump’s gratuitous tweet mocking her and the selection. This is beneath him, or should be. I grasp his logic: since the mainstream media will treat the ridiculous choice with reverence, being all-in on climate change hysteria, so he has to publicize the truth. Sometimes that logic is valid, but not when it comes to punching down at a manipulated and exploited child, which is what Thunberg is. Continue reading

The Misleading Nature Of Media-Hyped Research

Aaron Carroll is an American pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, as well as the Vice Chair for Health Policy and Outcomes Research and the Director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research. He favored the New York Times with an unusually clear and unbiased explanation of why so much “consensus” research used to panic the public is dubious, and mirabile dictu, they published it. For some reason, however, it ended up inside the Times Business section, despite Times having a perfect forum for it, its weekly Science insert.

I’m going to apply Hanlon’s Razor and attribute this to lunk-headedness rather than sinister instincts, even though Carroll’s observations clarify much of what’s wrong with “climate science.” Professor Carroll’s specific complaint involves the myths, as he calls them, declaring that diet soda is deadly, but his points apply to other scientific research and public opinion manipulation as well. Among them:

The public’s fear of “chemicals”

“Everything is a chemical,” Carroll writes, “including dihydrogen monoxide (that’s another way of saying water). These are just words we use to describe ingredients. Some ingredients occur naturally, and some are coaxed into existence. That doesn’t inherently make one better than another.”

[As an aside, the same kind of intentional confusion occurs regarding the term “drugs.” I saw a TV ad last might for melatonin tablets that repeated over and over that the pills were “100% drug free.” Melatonin is a hormone, and hormones are drugs, defined as any substance “that causes a change in an organism’s physiology or psychology when consumed.” Ah, but chemicals and drugs are scary.] Continue reading

Propaganda And Fake History: How Are We Supposed To Trust A Newspaper With Editors That Allow This?

New York Times journalist Eric Copage decided to resurrect the “Jesus was black” controversy from the Seventies for Easter in a column called, “As a Black Child in Los Angeles, I Couldn’t Understand Why Jesus Had Blue Eyes.”

That’s funny: as a white child growing up in the Boston area, I couldn’t understand how anyone knew what Jesus looked like, since there were no photographs then and he never had his portrait painted. I had the same question about Moses, and Adam and Eve.

But I digress. Copage seems to think it matters that Jesus wasn’t blue-eyed; I have a harder time imagining him shorter than a typical jockey, which he quite possibly was. The writer then says, Continue reading

A Hanlon’s Razor Puzzle: Is Chuck Todd A Liar, Or An Idiot?

Everywhere I turned today, I heard, read or heard about media people saying astounding things. For example, I learned that Geraldo Rivera endorsed the ridiculous idea of appointing Cindy McCain to replace her husband, tweeting,

Cindy McCain is well-qualified & should be appointed to fill Senate seat now vacated by death of hero husband.

How is she “well qualified? She has a typical heiress resume, running charities and doing other rich-people things. If she is so well-qualified to be a Senator, why didn’t anyone suggest that she run before her husband died? Her “qualification” is that her last name is McCain, that’s all, and it’s no qualification at all. Is Geraldo lying, or is he an idiot? Hanlon’s Razor directs us to presume incompetence over malice, and in Geraldo’s case, his record points in the same direction. He’s an idiot.

Then, driving home just now, I heard some pundit telling CNN’s Erin Burnett that John McCain held no grudge against the President for his campaign slur against prisoners of war. He didn’t care what Trump said. It rolled right off his back. The Senator knew who he was; words didn’t wound him. Suuuuure. That’s why he made a point of saying that the President of the United States wasn’t welcome at his funeral. That’s why in his farewell statement, McCain couldn’t resist taking thinly veiled shots at Trump. Nah, he didn’t care what the President said!

This guy, whoever it was, was lying.

But I don’t know what to make of Chuck Todd. I used to watch “Meet the Press” religiously on Sundays when Tim Russert was the host. He was obviously a Democrat, but he was smart and usually fair; I never felt like he had an agenda, or that he was lying to me. Todd is a different matter, and after a single viewing when he took over, I scratched the show off my list. (The other Sunday talking head shows followed, for various reasons, over the next 18 months until there were none.)

This past Sunday, in a roundtable exchange with David Brody, chief political analyst at CBN News who noted that 62% of the public think the media is biased, Todd actually seemed to be saying that mainstream media liberal bias is a myth, responding, Continue reading

Fake News Watch: “Truth Isn’t Truth”

Okay, if “enemy of the people” is too strong, how about “incompetent and malicious professionals abusing the public trust by misleading and misinforming citizens for the purpose of destabilizing the government and undermining democracy”? How’s that? Better? But doesn’t such conduct make someone an enemy of the people? And it’s so much shorter!

I didn’t see the interview, but still knew immediately that Rudy Giuliani didn’t literally say and mean “Truth isn’t truth” as the news media was widely reporting yesterday. Rudy may have lost his edge, but he’s no idiot, and he is not going to fall into an “alternate facts” gaffe like Kellyanne Conway. If you didn’t know that with relative certainty, if you didn’t assume that the biased news media was intentionally trying to make Giuliani, and hence the Trump Administration, and thus Trump himself, inherently dishonest and ridiculous,  then you are gullible, dangerously ignorant of the complexity of language and the critical role of context, or stubbornly unwilling to accept what is res ipsa loquitur now, which is that journalism has become overwhelmingly partisan and cannot be trusted.

If one witnessed the interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd that produced the fake “gotcha!” and didn’t find that false representation outrageous, then one is simply a hopeless, principal-free “resistance” fanatic.

Here was the actual exchange: Continue reading