Tag Archives: pundits

KABOOM! Is Your Head Explosion Proof? Find Out Now With The Handy Ethics Alarms Test, Starring CNN’s Don Lemon!

On February 15 at 11 pm, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon held a debate between the Nation’s Joan Walsh–The Nation is the farthest left of the U.S. political magazines, and is fairly described as Socialist—and National Review editor Rich Lowry. TNR is the most venerable of U.S. conservative publications. The subject was gun control, following the horrific high school shooting in Florida. Lemon was supposed to moderate.

I began watching the segment, which was amazingly, perilously  long, until my head exploded, nearly killing Rugby. Yesterday, I finally found a transcript of the exchange, and realized that those of you who think your heads are immune from detonation can test your cranial fortitude by trying to read it.

I recommend the test. It is challenging, and if your head survives intact, you can safely assume that nothing will send your brain matter to the ceiling, which is feeling of security we all aspire to. First, however, line the room with plastic sheets. Wear something easily washable (or nothing at all.) And for God’s sake, keep pets and loved ones out of the room. No helmets allowed.

I will break in from time to time to comment, and check on how you are doing.

We’ll begin the transcript when the early part of the discussion had turned to the NRA and its large contributions to elected officials…

RICH LOWRY: Well, I think you’re looking at this totally from the wrong perspective. Let’s take Paul Ryan for instance. I’m sure — I’m almost certain he was pro-gun rights even before he thought about running for Congress. So the idea all the Republicans are secret gun controllers and just have been bought off to go out and lie and pretend they’re in favor of gun rights is not true. This is a sincere conviction.

DON LEMON: Where is the evidence? I never said that.

JOAN WALSH: I don’t think Don was saying that.

LOWRY: Well you’re suggesting that Paul Ryan —

LEMON: I’m not suggesting anything.

LOWRY: — because of the money.

LEMON: I’m just reading the facts.

LOWRY: Okay, so the contributions have nothing to do with Paul Ryan’s conviction on guns? We agree on that?

LEMON: No, we don’t agree with that.

LOWRY: Okay. That’s the point I’m making. I’m sure he was pro —

LEMON: I’m not saying — you’re saying they’re secret gun controllers. I never intimated that.

LOWRY: Yes. You’re saying they’re bought off. So — if they’re — what are they being bought off to a position they don’t agree with it? Is that what you’re suggesting?

LEMON: Do you think they’re not influenced by the money?

LOWRY: No.

LEMON: Are you influenced by money?

LOWRY: Let’s talk about Paul Ryan.

LEMON: Do you know where your bread is butter?

LOWRY: Let’s talk about Paul Ryan. You think he is a secret gun controller? He has always been in favor of gun control.

WALSH: No, no one is saying that why creating the straw person that is what. It’s not something either one of us would.

LOWRY: No. Well — How it the money relevant? So it’s a sincere conviction.

WALSH: The money is relevant, because they have an alliance, the money is relevant.

LEMON: The money is getting them elected.

WALSH: The money gets them elected.

LOWRY: The NRA supporting him because he’s pro-gun.

WALSH: They have come around to —

LEMON: I am looking at it that way.

WALSH: — absolutism version of the First Amendment where common sense gun laws don’t work.

LOWRY: What’s wrong?

LEMON: No it doesn’t. Because he is influenced by the money.

LOWRY: No, no, no. So you think he —

LEMON: If the NRA —

LOWRY: — you think that —

LEMON: — is not paying him the money, then he would —

LOWRY: — when he was 16 years old out hunting deer, he was in favor of gun control then he ran for office and all this lobbyist money came to him and he changed his view on guns. That’s absurd

WALSH: You are creating a straw person.

LEMON: So, why oppose common sense restrictions that the vast number of Americans support and, by the way, do you think he was out with an AR-15 hunting?

LOWRY: I’m sure he is out with a rifle.

LEMON: Okay but an AR-15?

HEAD CHECK I. Head still intact? Good for you. 

A. Note that Don Lemon is supposed to be the moderator. This format is that CNN invites two “experts” on different sides of an issue to debate points for the edification of its audience. The theory is that this is fair and even handed. Lemon is the worst, most incompetent moderator of all time, because he literally could not be worse. If he were a boxing referee, he’d be pummeling one of the fighters. Not only does he take the role of an advocate, teaming up with Walsh against Lowry, but because that leaves the segment with no moderator, it rendered the segment incoherent, with everyone talking over each other, shouting and interrupting while seldom finishing a sentence or a thought.  Lemon, supposedly a professional broadcast journalist, is, therefor incompetent as well as biased. He’s not doing his job; he’s abusing his position, and he’s cheating his audience. All of CNN’s anchors do this, but seldom to this extent. Does Lemon even know what moderating is?

B. My head lasted through this segment, but Walsh using the ridiculous, politically correct “straw person” twice almost did me in. The term is “strawman,’ and it refers to scarecrows, which, unless someone is trying to make a feminist point to birds, are made to look male. This is how Leftists make themselves look silly. I can’t take someone seriously who uses a phrase like “Straw person.” It’s as bad as “Hangperson.”

C. Lowry is quite right: if Walsh and Lemon believe that the NRA’s money is the reason why members of Congress don’t support gun restriction measures, then they are arguing that these members would vote for such measures without the contributions. They are exhibiting  a particularly crippling kind of bias. They believe that their position is so obvious, so correct, that nobody would ever sincerely oppose it unless they were bribed. It is also an unusually hypocritical argument for any partisan to make, as it can easily be turned around to make the same claim regarding legislators opposing “sensible abortion restrictions,” for example. I’m sure that legislators on both sides of the aisle have positions that they vote for to keep donors happy; I’m also sure that that many big interest group  donations go to politicians because they sincerely and enthusiastically support those interests, and would with or without the contributions.

D. Most of all: how useless, inarticulate. amateurish and chaotic can a segment be? You’re going to find out, unfortunately… Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/26/1918: It’s Incompetence Friday!

Good Mronign!

Competence is often not regarded as an ethical value, but it is one of the most important of them all. It is also one of the most commonly breached, usually with the rationalization that “everyone makes mistakes.”

1 “The Nip” Redux  In a legendary “Seinfeld” episode, Elaine’s Christmas card features a photo, taken by amateur photographer and inveterate screw-up Kramer, in which one of her nipples is exposed. Kramer, however, was an admitted amateur. What is Vanity Fair’s alleged professionals’ excuse for its current cover (I’m not talking about the nauseating pandering to Hollywood it represents, for which there is no excuse), which shows actress Reese Witherspoon with three legs?

Vanity Fair may have been too focused on photoshopping out actor James Franco, who was in the original photo but became model-non-grata when he was accused of sexual harassment, and as #MeToo has taught us, an accusation is all the due process these male scum deserve.

2. Segue Alert! And speaking of Hollywood, there has been much ballyhoo over the fact that the nominated Best Actresses this year play feisty, unglamorous, tough, in several cases outright repulsive women. Question: Who likes watching such characters (and more are on the way)? The Academy snubbed the most popular film with a female star, Gail Gadot in “Wonder Woman,” who probably is still too politically incorrect because men—ick!—find her attractive. 2017 was a catastrophically bad year at the box office, meaning that Hollywood proved incompetent at its job, with is making movies people want to see. It also displayed incompetence—not to mention arrogance, bias, condescension, hypocrisy and stupidity–by shooting off its various mouths on political matters, making the entire film industry, which should be a unifying force in the culture, polarizing, like everything else in 2018.

The Hollywood Reporter has a report about the role politics plays in the Academy Award voting; this has always been true, but never more than now. I cannot imagine who would care what or who wins the statuettes when it is all transparent political grandstanding, virtue-signalling and an attempt to meet quotas. Next crisis on the horizon: Hispanic artists are gearing up to show how they have been statistically insufficiently represented in nominations and awards. I presume Asians will do likewise. Why are there not more roles and awards for the differently-abled? Trans performers? Hollywood is committed to the Left, the Left is committed to tribalism, and tribalism has nothing to do with popular entertainment.

Or democracy. But I digress. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/26/17: No, Everything Isn’t Horrible, But It’s Much Better If You Aren’t Ugly Or Paul Krugman…

Good Morning!

1 A strange disconnect. Does anyone else find it strange that Turner Movie Classics, which I would generally describe as a national cultural treasure, would choose Christmas Day of this year to highlight the career of director Alfred Hitchcock? As Hollywood and the movie industry are going to extreme lengths to purge themselves of the sexual predators in their midst, in some cases literally sending artistically outstanding works and careers into cultural purgatory, and with even calls for moderation and proportion (Matt Damon) or protestations of naive or denial-fueled ignorance (Meryl Streep) being sufficient to spark a professional crisis and widespread public criticism,  TCM, the modern day TV curator of Hollywood’s Golden Age, selected the most infamous sexual predator among all legendary American directors as its special Christmas treat.

Yeesh.

I don’t know what to make of this. Did the ethics alarms just go dead at TCM? Is this a case of “The King’s Pass,” as in, “Yes, male power figures in Hollywood engaging in sexual misconduct has been a terrible problem and it is important that this is finally being addressed, buuuut this is Alfred Hitchcock, after all. We have to over-look all of that because he’s a genius…”? The work of an artist should not be devalued because of his character or his unethical conduct, personal or professional, but at the same time, cheering the great sexual harassers of the past while trying to destroy tolerance of sexual harassment in the present seems like activities that should not be occurring simultaneously, since the two objectives undermine each other.

2. Is fake “doom and gloom” unethical?

The constant representation to the American people that the nation is in the midst of existential disaster when it obviously–well, if one isn’t completely addled by confirmation bias it should be obvious—is not can’t exactly be called “fake news,” but it is just as sinister in intent and just as dangerous in its potential results.

My errant focus was brought to this phenomenon in a film review, of all places. A.O. Scott, the New York Times reviewer who is incapable of not bringing his partisan and political biases into his reviews (thus making him a lousy reviewer, like the New Yorker’s late Pauline Kael) began his take on Matt Damon’s eco-fantasy “Downsizing” with this statement:

“A radically dystopian future seems like the best we deserve these days..”

Then I began looking for sentiments in pundit pieces and other commentary in the news media about how uniquely horrible it was to be an American in 2017. That assumption has tainted so much news reporting this year that it amounts to virtual brainwashing, and yet that characterization is false, in both comparative and absolute terms. Not only are many trends and developments uncontroversially positive, such as the long-delayed economic recovery, including booming business and consumer confidence, but in other areas as well. Yet The New York Times consistently publishes pieces like this one, by Paul Krugman on Christmas Day, titled, “America Is Not Yet Lost.” It is like a medical school case study on derangement, or a broadcast from the Bizarro Planet. We are told, directly or indirectly, that the reasons that the United States is in historically dire straits is because the Democrats lost the election, the headlong rush towards becoming just like the European socialist nanny states that they thought was finally assured has been stalled, and because, most of all, Donald Trump is President.

I can’t decide whether all these pundits really believe this, in which case they are mentally and emotionally unfit to do their jobs, or if this is a concerted, desperate effort to create panic and hysteria in defiance of reality, in order to justify undoing the election.  The characterization of the GOP tax bill was the most recent example of how the negativism makes legitimate analysis impossible. “This is wrong !” is always a perfectly responsible argument in a democratic society. “This is evil and will destroy us all!” is not. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/12/17: Hurricane Reports, And Poor Charles M. Blow Needs A Vacation

Good morning.

1 There is supposedly a controversy regarding the on-the-spot hurricane reports: is it ethical for networks and news stations to place reporters and camera operators in mortal peril by having them scream into a mic while being buffeted by wind, rain and debris?

What’s the controversy? Of course it’s unethical. In addition to sending ridiculously mixed and self-contradictory messages—“I’m standing here in the storm telling citizens in the area that they shouldn’t be in the middle of this storm!”—it is also bad Ethics Chess. This stunt will continue until the first reporter is blown into a wall and sustains permanent brain damage, or is injured by a flying piece of debris that impales her, maims her, or cuts her in half. It is entirely predictable that this will happen eventually, and once it does, reporters will stop doing it. Why not stop this before a the inevitable tragedy occurs?

TV stations do it for ratings, that’s all. It’s great visual programming. It’s not necessary. Half the time, we can’t make out what the reporter is screaming, and what they are screaming is redundant and stating the obvious.

Apparently the first reporter to do this was Dan Rather.

Figures.

2. What is the mission of a pundit, a talking head, a columnist? It has to be—don’t you think?—to enlighten readers, to convey a constructive, useful analysis of complex issues, to reliably filter facts and controversies through a unique view-point without so completely tainting his or her output with bias that it actively misleads.

Yesterday New York Times columnist Charles Blow issued a column titled “Soul Survival in Trump’s Hell on Earth.” This was the apotheosis of the kinds of columns Blow has been writing almost exclusively now for months; at least I hope it’s that, for I can’t imagine where he goes from here. This column, like the others, is nothing, literally nothing, but a nearly fact free exposition on the theme, “I hate the President. I really do. I do so, so much. I know you do too, and if you don’t, I hate you too. ARRRGGGGHHH!”

The headline isn’t hyperbole; Blow, if he is to believed, really thinks Americans are living in Hell because Donald Trump is President. Not because there is a Great Depression hovering over the land, not because we are embroiled in a Civil War, or the existential threat of a world war, or the daily threat of an  international stand-off igniting into world-wide thermonuclear obliteration, but because a President was elected that offends the ideological and partisan sensitivities of Charles M. Blow.

Hell.

Seriously.

How can the New York Times continue to justify publishing the weekly primal screams of this pompous, doctrinaire, and now apparently deranged pundit? Exaggerating problems and pronouncing that we are all but doomed is not a service. It is harmful. The only readers who will be persuaded by a column like this are the ones who decide that something has to be done and that it’s time to build that bomb. Moreover, when a pundit reaches the stage that Blow has, where the simple act of a government not agreeing with his views and enacting policies that he does not favor launches him into hysteria, that pundit needs a vacation. Or maybe another career.

What are Blow’s arguments that justify his diagnosis that the United States is now Hell on Earth? Is it that a major party and its supporters have set out deliberately to undermine American institutions by rejecting a national election, seeking to remove an elected President by non-electoral means? Is it that the  international fumblings and ditherings of the previous administration are, as predicted, resulting in increased threats to the United States and the rest of the world? Is it that American journalism and its uniquely free news media, beyond question the app that makes democracy function, has now become, by its own abuses, so completely politicized and untrustworthy that it has become a threat to the nation, rather than its watchdog?

Nah, none of this appears to bother Blow at all; as far as I can detect, he approves of all of it. Here is his Bill of Biased Generalities that add up to Hell on Earth: Continue reading

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Anti-Trump Brain Virus Case Study: The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin

Not all of the unrestrained anti-Trump zealots are progressives and Democrats. There are a lot of conservatives who detest him sufficiently to surrender their integrity, fairness and common sense as well. The Federalist’s Sean Davis has chronicled a revealing example: Washington Post pundit Jennifer Rubin.

Blogger Rubin is one of the rare in-House Post conservatives. Her 2016 columns regarding Trump were only slightly less vehement than mine, and once he was elected, she threw restraint to the wind. Before that, however, Rubin was one of the few reliably critical voices regarding President Obama and his feckless and bumbling Presidency.

One of the more frequent targets of her acid pen was the Paris climate deal. In a column mocking Obama’s “phony accomplishments,” Rubin wrote  that a Supreme Court decision on environmental regulations proved “how ephemeral Obama’s Paris climate change deal is.” Before that, Rubin  suggested  the accord was a cynical and transparent effort to take attention away Obama’s failure to deal effectively with radical Islamist terrorism, writing, “The president has no answer, so he goes to Paris to talk about climate change.”  Then she cited  the climate change pact as evidence that Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry lived in a “fantasy world” where “a piece of paper”was a signature accomplishment “even if it achieves nothing.” Rubin accused them of selling the progressive base a “bill of goods” on the Paris deal, while Rubin called it “footprints in the sand.” Still later, Rubin cited approvingly Oklahoma’s Senator Jim Inhofe , the most infamous climate change skeptic in the the U.S. Senate, when he said that the Paris climate change deal was “devoid of substance.”

But Rubin really detests President Trump. For a man she hates to embrace her opinion is so unbearable that her only way out is to reverse the opinion. Before Trump announced that he was quitting the 2015 deal but had hinted that he would, Rubin transformed into a Paris accord booster, and declared that such a move would be a disaster. She wrote:

No, Trump’s pullout from the international accord would be a political act — one that signals solidarity with his climate-change denial, right-wing base that revels in scientific illiteracy. Being a climate-change denier — which entails dogmatic opposition to the Paris agreement — is a dog whistle to the far right, a snub to “elites,” who in this case include academics, government and private scientists, technology chief executives and others whose livelihood depends on accurate data. (Between “2013 and 2014, only 4 of 69,406 authors of peer-reviewed articles on global warming, 0.0058% or 1 in 17,352, rejected AGW [anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming]. Thus, the consensus on AGW among publishing scientists is above 99.99%, verging on unanimity.”)

This would also be an international dog whistle, reflective of Trump’s rejection of the Atlantic Alliance and the bonds of cooperation that tie Western democracies together. R. Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is quoted as saying, “From a foreign policy perspective, it’s a colossal mistake — an abdication of American leadership. The success of our foreign policy — in trade, military, any other kind of negotiation — depends on our credibility. I can’t think of anything more destructive to our credibility than this.”

How could President Obama be so wrong to sign what Rubin termed a phony pact, yet President Trump such a villain and a fool to repudiate it?

Simple: if Donald Trump does it or says it, it’s horrible by definition, and previous conclusions and analysis is inoperable.

Writes Davis,

What changed that could possibly explain Rubin’s complete reversal on the necessity of a deal she once said was “ephemeral,” “phony,” “fantasy,” and “devoid of substance?” Nothing. It’s the same deal today as it was when it was agreed to in 2015. The only difference between then and now is that Trump eventually endorsed Rubin’s take in its entirety. And because Rubin now calibrates her political compass to the opposite of whatever Trump is doing, she feels compelled to vociferously support a vapid agreement she at one time opposed on the merits.

Bias makes you stupid. It also makes pundits untrustworthy, and it’s stunning that neither Rubin nor her editors noticed her sudden reversal sufficiently to recognize that some explanation was mandatory. Maybe they think “Trump” is explanation enough.

They probably do.

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The Washington Post Drops Its Resident Op-Ed Socialist. Good.

Workers Unite

The Washington Post has jettisoned Harold Meyerson, who has been the leftest of the leftists on the Washington Post op-ed pages for about 13 years…not surprising, as he also serves as editor at large for The American Prospect. Mayerson, according to his last column, was told that he was a goner because he was losing readers and because his columns were repetitious, which they certainly were. How many times, after all, can one read “Workers Unite!”?  From Occupy Wall Street to BlackLivesMatter, there was no revolt of the oppressed and downtrodden that Meyerson didn’t support, nor any standard issue socialist/progressive position that he did not wholeheartedly embrace.

The Post has other kneejerk leftists among their pundits, a disproportionate number in fact (this was also part of the Post’s motivation to let Meyerson go), but I found Meyerson more infuriating than the others because he seemed so much more intelligent than his positions and statements would suggest. He was the epitome of an opinion journalist whose opinions seemed to be calibrated to achieve a grander agenda, rather than honest expressions of truth or even what he really believed. He is a columnist in the Saul Alinsky tradition of liberalism, willing to bend truth for the greater good, to win converts for the Great Worker Rebellion, or whatever it would be.

No newspaper should employ a journalist who is willing to deceive its readers, even on the pretense of saving the world.

Continue reading

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Ghost Of Ethics Dunce Past: “Hardball” Guest Kevin James

Chamberlain

[CORRECTION: Boy do I feel stupid. For some reason Slate ran a story about this ridiculous exchange on Hardball, and it confused me into thinking it was current, and related to the Iran deal. My mistake; thanks to Rick Jones for flagging it. Other than the time frame, everything I wrote about James (and Matthews, and MSNBC) stands, and James’ pundit malpractice deserves as much exposure as possible. I’ve made a few edits to eliminate the confusion, which was all mine. I must say, however, I question the need for dredging up past idiots on political talk shows when there is such an abundance of current ones]

I didn’t know who Kevin James was—all I could find were references to the comedian who starred in “King of Queens.”  Apparently this James is a former L.A. mayoral candidate, a lawyer, and radio talk show host. Because MSNBC likes playing the game of finding the most ridiculous, inarticulate, wild-eyed, nut-ball conservative it can to represent any position the network’s ideological clones oppose, Chris Matthews used this guy in 2008 to explain whyt Republicans  thought Obama was “an appeaser” like Neville Chamberlain.  James’ position was that Obama was following in the infamous footsteps of  Chamberlain, who appeased Hitler in Munich while trumpeting “Peace in our time.”

Incredibly, James had no idea what Chamberlain did, and maybe even who he was. Matthews humiliated him by exposing his guest’s jaw-dropping ignorance as James shouted, protested and broadcast to all that he was the epitome of a badly educated, unprepared ideologue, out of his depth, his league, and his mind: How could any sane individual go on TV to compare Obama to Neville Chamberlain without doing the minimal research necessary to justify the comparison?

This is incompetent and irresponsible punditry, advocacy malpractice, and rank stupidity. Of course, it is also unethical for Matthews and MSNBC to allow anyone so abysmally unqualified to be a guest, but fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly. Still, the majority of the blame has to fall on James.

This fool was a federal prosecutor?

I bet the other Kevin James would have done better.

But he might not have been funnier.

Watch, and wince:

____________________

Spark and Pointer: Slate

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