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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/25/18: Bricks In The Wall [UPDATED]

1. Nah, that’s not a misleading title! An op-ed in the Times yesterday had the alarming header, “Trump’s New Target: Citizenship.” In fact, the piece was about the movement to end automatic U.S. citizenship for those born here of illegal immigrant parents, and the Trump administration policy of seeking to “denaturalize” foreign-born citizens who achieved citizenship status by withholding disclosure of previous crimes.

As with many aspects of the bizarre national immigration debate, support for continuing the first principle is hard to justify. It is a remnant of a time when there were no restrictions on U.S. immigration, so the birthright rule made sense. Now, when illegal immigration is a serious concern, the same principle creates a perverse incentive to break the law, and makes immigration law enforcement complicated and difficult. The second issue is more debatable. The New York Times has another “good immigrant” story, this time one that seeks sympathy for Norma Borgoño, a Peruvian immigrant who took the oath of citizenship in 2007. The Justice Department has moved to revoke  Borgoño’s citizenship, claiming that she committed fraud when she applied for it. She apparentlyfailed to disclose that she had taken part in a serious crime several years before her application, then four years later, in 2011, pleaded guilty when she was charged for helping her employer  defraud the Export-Import Bank of the United States of $24 million.

Writes the Times, “Since President Trump took office, the number of denaturalization cases has been growing, part of a campaign of aggressive immigration enforcement that now promises to include even the most protected class of legal immigrants: naturalized citizens.” That is a deceitful sentence, full of spin, as is the entire story. For “aggressive immigration enforcement” read “enforcement.” The U.S. has every right, and in fact a duty, to assess what kind of people it wants to allow to become citizens, and criminals need not apply—after all, we have enough of them already. The Times finds it significant that Borgoño hasn’t been charged with her crime when she  applied for citizenship, but she was still a criminal, and the crime wasn’t stealing a loaf of bread, either. It also spins that her aiding a massive theft was “to no benefit of her own.” Oh! Then that’s OK, then! Presumably there was the benefit of keeping her job with her boss the felon, at very least.

The Trump administration isn’t “targeting citizenship,” but rather naturalized citizenship that was improperly granted, based on false representations.

2. The irresponsible neglect of the national infrastructure continues. I could write about this every day, and maybe I should. A microcosm of the national crisis is illustrated in the recent news that the New York City subway system is still falling apart, and even after the city spent about $333 million on emergency repairs its condition has barely improved. Waiting until transit systems, bridges, roads, railroad track, waterways, sewer and water pipes,  airports, the power grid and the rest of the structures that support civilization start crumbling, stifling commerce and killing people is an idiotic and suicidal approach to a basic  function of government, but  that has been our national policy since the 1960s. President Trump has claimed that addressing this was a priority, and maybe it will be, but recent history suggests that nothing will be done of substance until there is a lot of sickness, death, and destruction. Continue reading

Presenting: The Reverse Hanlon’s Razor, “Nalnah’s Razor” [UPDATED]

Sometimes you have to presume malice.

In item #1 of the March 11 Warm-Up, I wrote about Steve Bannon’s intentionally-misread statement to French nationalists, saying in part,

 “…What Bannon was obviously saying —and I do mean obviously—is “Don’t let their reflex race-baiting and demonizing tactics discourage you or deter you. Calling sensible immigration laws “xenophobic” is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie. Recognize that their tactics mean you are winning the argument. Be proud, not intimidated.”

My friend, frequent critic and former Ethics Alarms blogger of the year Windypundit responded,

“It’s not a lie, it’s an opinion. An opinion that Bannon and his supporters and you are free to reject. But still an opinion.”

This gave me pause.

If it is an opinion, it is a really stupid opinion. If one wants to argue that immigration laws are xenophobic, racist or nativist, then fine: make the case. The case can’t be made, of course. Borderless nations are not nations. From the collapse of the Roman Empire, to the white European take-over of North America, to the cultural upheavals and violence facing Europe now, history’s lessons are not ambiguous. A nation that does not protect its sovereignty and manage its population and demographics is doomed. Not knowing this is ignorant. Not comprehending it is stupid. Publicly denying it for political gain is dishonest.

Hanlon’s Razor is typically quoted as, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Should the razor be applied to the Left’s increasingly shrill and repetitive catcalls that those wanting to enforce the laws against illegal immigration are doing so because they are xenophobic, racist, and nativist?

No, it shouldn’t, because those promoting the use of those terms are not stupid nor ignorant. They are cynical, and they are using the fallacy of the appeal to emotion while wielding the cognitive dissonance scale unethically. Set up the proponents of the rule of law as universal negatives like racists, xenophobes and nativists—bigots, in other words, and whatever they oppose rises on the scale, and whatever they embrace falls. The labeling, however, is false, and intentionally so. Immigration law, the rule of law, borders and sovereignty have nothing to do with racism, xenophobia, or nativism. They are all independent, well-established aspects of responsible governance. Absent more, accusing advocates of these basic tools of being motivated by bigotry is indefensible, and inexplicable absent stupidity, ignorance, or malice. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/12/17

Good morning, all!

1. I can’t keep writing the same post repeatedly as the politically correct, the historical censors, the Soviet-style Left and the gallactically stupid continue to tear down statues and eliminate honors to significant Americans who are predecessors deemed worthy.  Just hunt for the “airbrushing history” tag here and you’ll find too many already. We should note, however, how the cognitive dissonance scale is coming into play to the benefit of the unethical airbrushers.

In Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, this weekend will witness thousands of white nationalists and neo-Nazis demonstrating to protest a plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee  from a city park, because, Lee’s sub-21, infinitely wise undergrads insist, erasing Lee from history will undo the legacy of racism, or something. Of course, for the Racist Right to be the ones protesting makes this position look reasonable. White supremacists organizing the protests unjustly associates Lee with their cause, making his statue mean something it never did, and attaching him to  cause that was not his. The protests against tearing down Lee’s statue–UVA’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, will be next on the non-person list, or close to it—should be coming from historians, scholars, liberals, believers in fairness, nuance, and integrity, and those who are literate enough to understand that the life of Robert E. Lee has much to teach every child and American about loyalty, hubris, hard choices, tragic choices, hypocrisy, courage and more. Why aren’t they protesting? Two reasons, now: they don’t want to be shoulder to shoulder with the scum of the earth, and they are too timid to stand up for crucial ethical principles, unlike the censors of Charlottesville, who don’t understand them, and the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, who don’t have them.

2. And speaking of historical airbrushing and censorship: Last year, I designated the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C as an Ethics Dunce for omitting the second African American SCOTUS justice, Clarence Thomas from mention while devoting an exhibit to his unsubstantiated accuser, Anita Hill.  Now the museum has announced plans to honor Jim Vance.

Come on, you all know who Jim Vance is, don’t you? (D.C. area residents: shut up!) Jim Vance, who transformed America for blacks? Give up? Vance was a long-time popular local D.C. television news broadcaster, with a nice screen presence and a casual delivery.  He just died, and he was black. The museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch, said the broadcaster “symbolized that it was really important that America was changing and his presence was a symbol of that change.” Right, sort of….although Vance was hardly the first or the most prominent black newscaster in D.C. Clarence Thomas, however, was the first conservative black justice…which is, of course, why is being shown such disrespect by the “Nation’s Attic.”

I haven’t visited the huge, striking new museum on the mall yet, and I won’t until its shows signs of being am objective chronicler of history rather than a tool of interest group propaganda. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/14/17

Good morning!

1. It is a matter of constant fascination to me how all of President Trump’s personal lawyers appear to be flaming jerks, whatever their legal skills may be. Here’s an example from this week: Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia conspiracy theory investigation, was contacted by a stranger, a retired public relations professional, who had read ProPublica’s unflattering story on Kasowitz. He sent the lawyer an email with the subject line: “Resign Now.’’

Kasowitz used the 30 minutes between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to bombard the man with threats and epithets, writing such dignified  messages as,

“I’m on you now.  You are fucking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , bitch/”

“Call me.  Don’t be afraid, you piece of shit.  Stand up.  If you don’t call, you’re just afraid.” 

“I already know where you live, I’m on you.  You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise.  Bro.”

Nice.

This isn’t a legal ethics violation, though it almost certainly would be if Kasowitz were addressing an opposing counsel in such a manner. It’s just generally unethical as outrageous, inexcusable, gratuitous incivility, reflecting poorly on him, his profession and his client. A client who was minimally concerned about ethics would fire him.

2. Speaking of a minimal concern for ethics, Trump’s defense of his son’s dumb but legal meeting with the Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary included the statement that “most people would have taken that meeting.” Once again, we have evidence that Donald Trump literally doesn’t know what ethics is. Oh, his rationalizations are the same ones the average ethically-retarded citizen uses—this is why he is President. They are still rationalizations. Yes, Mr. President, and most people would accept extra money from an ATM and not tell the bank about it. And most people lie to get out of trouble. And most people do all sorts of unethical things, which doesn’t make them ethical, responsible or appropriate.

He is the President, though, and this is how we will inevitably become a nation of assholes. 

3.  And speaking of assholes, there is Nancy Pelosi. Because a female journalist was blocked from access to the House of Representative by a Sergeant of Arms who properly pointed out that she was wearing a sleeveless dress, always forbidden according to Congress’s dress code, we were suddenly subjected to the false narrative that those mean, sexist Republicans were abusing women again, as well as being typically antediluvian in their ideas about propriety. (Men can’t go sleeveless either, but never mind.) Paul Ryan was the target here, as the Speaker is officially charged with enforcing such rules. The narrative was not really about the dress code, but just part of the over-all “Get Republicans” news media strategy to make the party as unpopular as possible. Yesterday Paul Ryan plausibly said that he wasn’t aware of the rule in question, and was happy to amend it. Then Nancy Pelosi piled on, tweeting, “Glad to see [Speaker Ryan] is updating the dress code for the House Floor. These unwritten rules are in desperate need of updates.”

Pelosi was Speaker for four years, her tenure ending just six years ago. The same rule Ryan is being attacked for was in place during her entire tenure. Why didn’t she fix it herself, dedicated feminist that she is? Her tweet is such obvious hypocrisy that it calls attention to the double standards employed by Democrats, the news media and women. Pelosi could have cheered the change without appearing to duck her own responsibility for their continuation. Instead, she acted as if she was an innocent bystander.

Nancy Pelosi is a major reason the Democratic Party has become a party of assholes. Who but an asshole would tolerate a national leader like this as the face of his or her party in Congress? Are Democrats proud of this woman? Do they endorse her tactics and rhetoric? We have to assume so, don’t we? Continue reading

In The Latest Episode Of “As The News Media Disgraces Itself,” Chris Cuomo Reveals Himself As An Incompetent Fool

The public cannot trust what the star lawyer-anchor of a morning news program on a major news network says about the law with utter certainty.

The public cannot trust the major news network to correct the false information so conveyed in a timely fashion.

The public cannot trust that major news network.

Unproven hypothesis: The public cannot trust any news network.

Never mind the hypothesis, however. Let us just deal for now with the lawyer/host/news anchor, Chris Cuomo, his inattentive network, and this ridiculous statement he uttered as authoritative fact last week:

”Also interesting is, remember, it’s illegal to possess these stolen documents. It’s different for the media, so everything you’re learning about this, you’re learning from us.”

What?

“So everything you’re learning about this, you’re learning from us” would appear to state that it’s illegal for the public to even read the hacked e-mails, which anyone can do here. That can’t be right, and of course is nonsense: anyone can read anything that is available on the web. It is also a sinister theory, claiming that we have to rely on the interpretation, selective reporting, spin and biased analysis of media hacks like Chris Cuomo, because the law says we can’t download or read such material ourselves. Where did  Cuomo, a licensed lawyer, get a crack-brained idea like that? More important, why couldn’t he figure out it was ridiculous using common sense? A law degree is hardly necessary, if one thinks for a few seconds.

Continue reading