Equivocation – FT#36

Equivocation – FT#36

Show Notes

The Equivocation fallacy relies on using a word with more than one meaning to set up a misleading argument. Often the word will be used in one sense in the premise, and in the other sense in the conclusion, implying that because the word is the same, the meanings are the same.

We started out with White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s amazing on-screen confession in which he used ‘politics’ to mean multiple different things:

Here’s what Michael McKinley had actually said: “The timing of my resignation was the result of two overriding concerns: the failure, in my view, of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the Impeachment Inquiry on Ukraine; and, second, by what appears to be the utilization of our ambassadors overseas to advance domestic political objectives… I was disturbed by the implication that foreign governments were being approached to procure negative information on political opponents,”

Then we talked about this retweet, which he later deleted (but nothing ever goes away on the internet):

And finally we discussed this tweet about fake news:

In Mark’s British Politics Corner, we talked about Lisa Nandy MP’s interview on Talk Radio:


– which Mark has helpfully transcribed and annotated!:

[Lisa Nandy Labour MP for Wigan since 2010 on Talk Radio with Mike Graham Wednesday, September 4, 2019]

[Clip 1 – Lisa Nandy points out what Mike’s doing and explains Deal and Withdrawal agreement]

Lisa Nandy: You say that Labour MPs are sitting here are trying to use language misleading language in order to mislead the public

Mike Graham: You are

LN You keep talking about a deal, we haven’t negotiated a deal and this is part of what is obscuring this for the public you have to be clear about what has happened here

MG So you’re gonna tell me…

LN You’ve got to tell the truth

MG Well I am telling the truth because that’s what I do. What I don’t do is obfuscate the truth. Which is what you people do

LN That’s what you’ve just done that’s exactly what you’ve done

MG So you’re telling me that Theresa may did not go to Brussels…

LN You’re telling the public we’ve got a deal – we haven’t started negotiating it

MG …you’re telling me that Theresa may did not go to Brussels did not negotiate a deal did not bring it before Parliament and it was not voted down three times

LN She negotiated a withdrawal agreement which settled legal and technical questions and allowed the UK then to go and negotiate a deal that… those negotiations haven’t yet started. That is one of the reasons the public is so frustrated it’s one of the reasons I am so frustrated and it’s one of the reasons that we’re trying to bring that withdrawal agreement bill before Parliament for the first time to see if we can get a majority for it and then allow Parliament and the government have a role and a say in what those future trading relationships look like

[FT 36 Britpol Clip 2 – Mike Changes the Subject and equivocation occurs]

MG Why don’t you have an election then you could be in charge of the government and then you could do what you wanted?

LN Because if we have an election right now we give Boris Johnson the power to set the date and if he sets the date after the 31st of October we leave the EU with no deal and no arrangements at all.

MG Well you say we haven’t got a deal now

LN We’ve got a deal

MG Well you just told me we didn’t have a deal

[no she explained that there is not a deal YOU said we had a deal and she told you that was wrong]

LN We haven’t left the EU yet so we’ve got a deal in that we’re still technically members of the European Union

MG You just told me we haven’t got a deal, you can’t even have a deal a minute ago and now not have a deal

[in his equivocation he gets it the wrong way round what he meant to say was you can’t say we have a deal and not have a deal – which she didn’t anyway btw – HE is guilty of equivocating there]

LN I think you’re just trying to I think you’re just trying to be difficult I mean this is just complete and utter nonsense

FT 36 Britpol Clip 3 – Lisa calls Mike out and Mike employs other fallacies

MG No I’m just trying to I’m just trying to get at the truth

LN The truth is we haven’t left the EU yet

MG right so do we have a deal

LN we haven’t negotiated a deal

MG You just said we had a deal

LN We’re in the EU at the moment if we leave on the 31st of October we are… I don’t really understand what’s so difficult about this for you

MG Well it’s not me that’s difficult I do my job everyday right Well you guys haven’t done your job for three years

LN Well this is just complete nonsense because you’re not doing your job now you’re pretending to the public that all we’re doing in Parliament is running around trying to stop

MG and that’s what they’d say to me

LN We’re trying to agree a deal

MG I talk to the public every single day and that’s what they say to me they’re sick to death of politicians arguing over semantics arguing over little niceties and making excuses about why we cannot do what they asked you to do which is to leave the European Union

In the Fallacy in the Wild, we talked about this clip from the TV movie version of Alice In Wonderland, with Carol Channing:

Then we discussed this Monty Python sketch:

We also talked about this Abbott and Costello bit about moving a car:

Here are the statements from this week’s Fake News game:

  1. We have Secretary Azar, who’s doing a great job, really a tremendous job on health care.  He came to me and he said “Sir, what people want is transparency”. I said “Explain transparency”. And I got it done — and it’s going to be put into effect very soon. We signed it a few months ago and it’s going to be in effect, and people can go to the hospital and they can see the prices. They can negotiate. Right now, they don’t let you do that. But now you can.
  2. Tell me, Mr. President, tell me, Mr. Prime Minister, tell me, King or Queen, why are we protecting your country and you take advantage, really, of us on trade? And they go, “But nobody has ever asked me that question before.” I said, “Tell me why.” They can’t think of an answer. The only thing they say all the time — because it has always been that way — I said, “Well, it’s not going to be that way any longer.
  3. People said, “What’s with the lightbulb?” I said, “Here’s the story…” And I looked at it — the bulb that we’re being forced to use — number one, to me, most importantly, the light is no good. I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst. But number two, it’s many times more expensive than that old incandescent bulb that worked very well. And very importantly — I don’t know if you know this — they have warnings. If it breaks, it’s considered a hazardous waste site.

Click below for the answer

Mark got it wrong again this week, and now he’s on 14/35, or exactly 40%.


We then talked about Trump’s tendency to brand anyone who doesn’t show him obsequious fealty a ‘Never Trumper‘.


And finally, here are the stories we really didn’t have time to talk about:

  • Stop the presses!  Trump has done a good thing! Wait a minute, that’s gonna need an asterisk. Let’s say that Trump was President when a good thing happened.  US Special Forces carried out a raid which resulted in ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi blowing himself up. Trump announced Al Baghdadi’s death in a batshit crazy press conference at the weekend, in which he went into great detail about the terrorist leaders last moments, which he apparently spent in fear, whimpering and crying. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said he wasn’t quite sure where Trump got that information, since reportedly the live surveillance feed that the White House had access to had no audio.  It also seems likely the Donald didn’t watch it live, as the raid took place at 3.30pm Washington time, at which point, Trump was still on the golf course. The official photo the White House released, of Trump and the Generals apparently watching the raid in the situation room, was taken over 90 minutes later, and the photographer forgot to tell them they were supposed to be looking at a screen, not at the camera. We must of course remember what Trump tweeted after Bin Laden was killed: “Stop congratulating Obama for killing Bin Laden. The Navy Seals killed Bin Laden”
  • In that wonderfully witty and well-observed way that only crowds at sporting events can muster, a collective comment was directed at Trump at the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals baseball World Series game on Sunday. I love the way that they came up with, as one, with superbly apposite humour the only thing they could, to thumb their noses, satirise and belittle Trump in one three-word phrase when the crowd of thousands spontaneously chanted ‘Lock Him Up”. Whilst cameras picked up Veterans for Impeachment banners behind the catcher the Morning Joe show said “We are Americans and we do not do that. We do not want the world hearing us chant ‘Lock him up’ to this president or to any president” (When clearly thousands did do just that.) And of course as for Presidential Candidates and Wives of Former Presidents hell yeah no problem chant away at them hey we’ll even get the President to join in, to show that’s just how American he is…
  • Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said at a political summit recently that he cautioned Trump against hiring yes men, apparently telling him “Don’t hire someone that will just, you know, nod and say, ‘You know, that’s a great idea Mr. President,’ Because you will be impeached.” Press Secretary who has never actually held a press briefing, Stephanie Grisham, decided to challenge this wisdom by taking yes man to its natural, totalitarian conclusion right on the eve of Trump’s impeachment.  In a statement to CNN, Grisham said “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President” Rumour has it that she then unfurled several banners featuring the President’s face, and started humming The Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • In the latest from the No-Smoke-without-Fire Department the White House is looking to veto the new SHIELD act passed by the Democrats last Wednesday. SHIELD stands for Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy which also won the Most Unambiguously Specifically Focussed and Self-referential Acronym award or MUSFASA of 2019. Basically it does what it says on the tin as we say in the UK and it also imposes new rules on placing political ads on social media to put them in line with TV and Radio. All good timely stuff vital to elections I hear you acknowledge – and you’d be just like the White House who agreed that “transparency and accountability” were vital to elections, and yet weirdly it also argued that the bill’s reporting requirements would overly burden campaigns without furthering securing U.S. elections, calling the act “redundant, overly broad, ambiguous, and unenforceable.” Well it’s certainly been unenforceable whilst there’s no rules in place and with Mr Unenforceable in place too. Good to know that Trump is thinking first of others and the extra burdens it’d place on them rather than himself and his self-centred acts of megalomania for once. Cheers Donny.
  • One of the funniest reactions to the Ukraine/Biden debacle, has been watching Trump’s large adult children claim to be outraged that the child of a politician would ever use their father’s position for personal gain.  The fact that none of them burst into flames on Fox News is all the proof we need that there is no God. Of course, no Trump would ever gain personal benefit from Donald’s Presidency – which means it must just be a coincidence that the US Marshalls service awarded a $33 million dollar security contract to a firm in which Trump’s brother Robert owns a financial stake.  Sometimes you wonder what all this corruption is based on, but then you look, and it’s just corruption, all the way down.
  • In a way not inconsistent with the way we all know Trump thinks he’s a standup comic and yet he isn’t – goddam it he’s worse than Arthur Fleck – well it turns out we were so taken in by his infectious humour (the yellow-haired Joker not the green-haired one) that we’d failed to notice that he was joking all along when he mentioned last week that he’s building that wall on the southern border of Colorado. A joke delivered in such a dead-pan way it raised the eyebrows of the gathered crowd of Pennsylvanians who began to doubt that they had known since kindergarten, despite being 1500 miles from Colorado, that Colorado borders New Mexico not actual Mexico. So is this a new wall? from the Santa of Slats? a present from Trump’s brick-filled sack? No apparently not. He later corrected us in our idiotic misconception by pointing out that when he said Colorado and the wall he actually said they would be getting the benefit of the wall – the wall on the border – tchk what are we stupid or something! All hail the humble apology self-effacing not-afraid-to-backtrack king. Just a thought can we not persuade Elon Musk to take Trump, for free, up in SpaceX high enough to see the US all laid out below? And to step outside for a moment to enjoy the view…
  • Rudy Giuliani is like a gift that keeps on giving, if the thing you want for Christmas is a terrible lawyer that keeps accidentally admitting to crimes while trying to deny other crimes that he also definitely committed.  The grown adult who is responsible for keeping the secrets of the leader of the free world , has been butt dialling a reporter at NBC and leaving voicemails in which he bad mouths the Bidens and asks businessmen for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  OK, these ones aren’t actually crimes, but give it a week or so.
  • Another bedtime story from the Tales of Brexit, are you sitting on the edge of your seat? Then I’ll begin. So the Big Bad Boz huffed and he puffed and brought his deal that isn’t a deal to the first house and blow me down if the house actually let him pass, for about 17 minutes when they then said we’d rather like longer to look at it please and rejected his 3 day timetable. And Bozza couldn’t understand why – he’d not read it so he didn’t know how long it was, when in reality it’d take you three days just to get all the pages in order – it makes War and Peace look like a 4am tweet from Angry of Washington! He thus got miffed and huffed and withdrew the thing altogether – you see Mr Bozza doesn’t like scrutiny, he doesn’t like revealing that his entire fabric is made of a tissue of lies and bluster and doesn’t like having it held up to the light, he also dodged yet another evidence session from the Commons Liaison Committee on that basis, scribbling a note from his mum saying sorry the PM can’t come he’s pretending to be invisible.  So instead of saying okay let’s just have longer to look at it – he took his ball away and said right you have a go at being in charge see if you like it and tabled for another vote on holding an election – his third I think. No-one of course was interested – he like Theresa May before him offered to fall on his own sword and missed. Even though he said look if you vote to dissolve the parliament I’ll give you extra time to scrutinise the deal that isn’t a deal – knowing of course no-one would thus be in parliament to scrutinise it and noone fell for it. Except for one little kid in the yellow-suited opposition party who saw through the Bozza’s new clothes and said why don’t we have a different way of calling an election that doesn’t need big numbers which Bozza called a stunt, and then he did it anyway and now we’re having an election in December when it’s dark and cold and he hopes no one but angry hot people will vote, and it isn’t an election really cos all it is is a way of getting another minority government back in to suffer under the weight of the poisoned chalice that is Brexit. Sysiphus had it easy!  Now can we have our sanity back please, repair this broken timeline and go back to 2016 and try the other route – you know the one less travelled that would make all the difference?

That’s all for this week, thanks for listening!

Jim Cliff

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