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

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