Thursday, March 24, 2011

More on That False Truism

How the saying “Everything happens for a reason” combines presumption with obtuseness.

Last week, I posted an entry examining and denigrating the saying “Everything happens for a reason” (“A False Truism,” March 13, 2011). I subsequently learned that, by a curious chance, an article appeared a few days later at under the title “Five Popular Phrases That Make You Look Like an Idiot,” in which the very same phrase appears at the head of the list (though at the end of the article). Reading another writer’s attempt to identify what makes this saying so irritating gives me occasion to reconsider my own analysis.

I was not surprised to find that the author, whose name is given as “Gladstone,” does not share my logical objections to the phrase. Perhaps no one without some years of study of philosophy will do so. Gladstone even gives the saying a pass as far as its literal meaning is concerned:
I suppose this cliché wouldn’t be intolerable if it were merely meant to be taken literally. Everything does happen for a reason. People die young because they get hit by trains or get cancer. People are maimed and disfigured in wars because of bombs. I mean, if that’s all this cliche were trying to convey then it would just be vaguely annoying. You’d assume the speaker were just some mental deficient who says things like “water is wet,” “ice cream is yummy,” or “Tosh is funny.”
I, of course, disagree. Gladstone in effect takes the phrase to be equivalent in literal meaning to the truism “For everything that happens, there is a reason why it happens.” But in my estimation he lets the phrase off too easily. Getting hit by a train or getting cancer may be the reason why someone dies young, but it is not a reason for which someone dies young. People do not die for a reason, as dying is not something that people do, or can do, intentionally. They can intentionally kill themselves or get themselves killed or let themselves die (i.e., refrain from taking action to prevent or delay their dying); but “dying” does not name a possible intentional action, nor even an action at all. Dying is something that befalls one; accordingly, it cannot intelligibly be said to be done “for a reason.” The same goes for any occurrence that is not an intentional action.

For the sake of simplicity, I will hereafter use the phrase “mere happening” for anything that happens that is not the intentional act of an agent. Thus, for instance, someone’s dying is a mere happening; someone’s killing himself is an action. 

I argued in my previous piece that the logical confusions in this saying contribute to its currency by allowing it to pass—in lazy, sloppy, or corrupt minds—for a truism. But even if that is so, perhaps logical confusion is not the most objectionable feature of the saying. It is happens to be the sort of feature that tends to attract my attention, because of my peculiar irritability toward logical confusion and the satisfaction that I find in exposing it. But the logical confusion is just the means by which the phrase conveys its pernicious half-hidden meaning. That meaning combines presumption and obtuseness, as Gladstone vividly points out:
But the annoying thing about this phrase is that the speaker believes he/she has some inside track to God or Fate or whatever mystic unseen hand controls the universe. As if there is a power and that power decided there was an actual reason to inflict a newborn baby with Trisomy 18 or have a woman get gang raped. And given the existence of this rational force—that operates only with justification and reason—who are you to question why someone ravaged your wife, or blew apart your son, or took your leg? This cliché insists that either happy endings always exist (“see, they never would have found that tumor, unless they were repairing that machete wound to your abdomen”) or if there is no happy ending for you then your suffering was part of some greater plan that benefited another (“don’t be sad that you were imprisoned for twenty years by a racist jury for a crime you didn’t commit, I mean, think about the valuable lesson you’ve taught us about bias in criminal juries!”)
To say “Everything happens for a reason” is in effect to deny that there are any of what I termed mere happenings, except perhaps by an arbitrary choice of phrasing. It is to hold that the occurrences that appear to us to be mere happenings, such as someone’s dying of cancer or the fall of a leaf, are actually made to happen by an agent—presumably an all-powerful one that works in ways beyond our powers of observation. That would be, in Gladstone’s words, “God or Fate or whatever mystic unseen hand controls the universe.”

This much is implied by the phrase; and by itself it is outrageous presumption enough. But, as Gladstone rightly observes, the person who says “Everything happens for a reason” typically claims even more than this. It would be compatible with this saying to believe that the universe is governed by a petty, jealous, unjust, vindictive, capricious bully of a deity—such as the YHWH of the Hebrew Bible, for instance (see the opening paragraph of chapter 2 of Richard Dawkins’s The God Illusion Delusion*). Even people who believe that collection of texts to be divinely revealed tend to have a more favorable conception of the invisible agent behind the world’s scenes. They tend to believe, in defiance of the text, that God is just, loving, forgiving, wise, and so forth. Certainly Scripture abounds with passages in which YHWH is described in just such terms; the fact remains that the deity’s record in other passages gives the lie to such white-washing. A father who brutally beats or kills his children for failing to honor him properly does not earn the epithets “just,” “loving,” etc., by behaving more generously on other occasions.

But Biblical exegesis is not the issue. The point is that those who say “Everything happens for a reason” mean more than that some intelligent power of unspecified character makes everything happen. They mean that this power does so only for ends that are of some earthly benefit, either to the victim of suffering or to others. That is why devotees of this saying are given to using it to offer consolation to the afflicted. But to do so merely crowns theological presumption with obtuseness toward human suffering. For whatever the human benefit might be for the sake of which God inflicts misfortune, in serious cases the victim would almost never accept the bargain if he or she had a choice in it. Moreover, if God, or whatever the great stage manager is supposed to be, makes everything happen for a reason, then it is difficult to forgive that party for effecting a good end by evil rather than by good means. If the invisible puppet master can, say, take away a couple’s child to teach them compassion (and if this does not seem a convincing example of this line of thought, some other equally puerile rubbish can be put in its place), surely he or she or it should be able to effect the same end without inflicting such tragedy upon people.

Gladstone concludes with these remarks:
I’m not saying all suffering is random and pointless, or that nothing good can ever come out of a bad situation, but the arrogance that comes from the belief that tragic events are always justified as part of a larger plan is just intolerable. I don’t know why bad things happen, but I do know that no one who throws this cliché around knows either. So to everyone keeping this miserable expression alive, please leave people to their misery and save your cliché for yourself the next time you’re walking in the woods and step into a bear trap after getting shot in the eye by a drunken hunter.
This paragraph might leave those who are given to saying “Everything happens for a reason” complacent in the opinion that they are doing no wrong as long as they refrain from offering that formula for the consolation of others. The declared subject of the article, after all, is “phrases that make you look [“look”? not “sound”?] like an idiot.” But the saying is to be despised on its own account, regardless of the social use to which it is put. It may be handy to have reasons for this summarized here.

(1) The saying is logically confused: it applies to mere happenings a form of expression that applies intelligibly only to intentional actions.

(2) By means of this logical confusion, it assumes the air of a truism, which it decidedly is not. To take it for a truism is foolish, and to offer it to others as a truism is chicanery.

(3) Its half-hidden meaning is that all mere happenings are effected by an inscrutable power for the sake of some benefit to those affected by those happenings. This is an extravagant presumption without foundation in any known facts. To assert it as fact is therefore a fatuous piece of self-conceit.

(4) It implies a theodicy according to which all suffering and misfortune is for the sake of a good that outweighs the evil. This trivializes all suffering and misfortune.


*Richard Dawkins, The God Illusion Delusion (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), p. 51. (Thanks to Sarra for pointing out my error.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Changing the Name of the Blog

From “Skeptical Jew” to “Skeptical Observations.”

I have to confess that I have always been somewhat uncomfortable with the title that I originally chose for this weblog—Skeptical Jew. As I noted in one entry (“Funny Word, Funnier Concept”), the word “Jew,” perhaps in some degree because of its rather curt sound, carries with it an echo of the scornful tone with which it has at times been uttered—so much so that many non-Jews shy away from using it for fear of sounding anti-Jewish. I was perhaps depending on the insider’s prerogative in entitling my blog “Skeptical Jew”: “Jew” is the standard classificatory term in English for one of such origins as mine, so I can use it with impunity. But I am suspicious on principle of reliance on such insider’s privileges. What is more, I could still hear that echo. So I retained a degree of discomfort with putting the word, as a description of myself, into the title of my blog.

Recently, another consideration has added to my misgivings. Although I have made more frequent entries to the blog of late than I was doing for several months, I have found myself with less and less to say about Jewish topics. This was perhaps inevitable, my knowledge of Judaism being as meager as it is (meager, I mean, not by comparison with what people in general know, but by comparison with what Jews of extensive religious education know). One of the aims with which I started this blog was to reflect on my perplexing condition of being a Jew by something more than descent and upbringing alone, yet less than belief. But since writing three rather inconclusive entries on this topic early on (“Three Ways of Looking at Being Jewish,” “Reply to Comment on Jewish Identity,” and “On Being Skeptical”), I have had no new thoughts about it.

I have decided, therefore, to drop the “Jewish” theme from my title while keeping the skeptical one. “Observations” is a loose enough term to capture anything that I may wish to do here, while “skeptical” describes my temperament and my epistemological orientation rather than an object of concern. I hope that I shall have further things to say about Judaism and being Jewish. But I will no longer make any effort to bend my thoughts toward them any more than they are naturally inclined to go.

A Rough Introduction to Critical Thinking

A clip from the video Dara Ó Briain Talks Funny, with a partial transcript.

The clip embedded above is an excerpt from a video recording of Irish comic Dara Ó Briain (pronounced “dah-ra o-bree-an”) in performance at the Hammersmith Apollo Theatre in London in 2008. In this clip, he addresses himself to popular forms of ignorance and misunderstanding regarding matters of scientific knowledge (“a general kind of lack of knowledge about science,” as he says at 0:20). Ó Briain can be a bit rough on those who propagate defective forms of thinking (“Jesus, homeopaths get on my nerves!”), and his performance, being stand-up comedy rather than a lecture, does not include much presentation of evidence pertinent to the evaluation of claims: hence my description of this as a “rough introduction” to critical thinking. But his act shares with critical thinking the aims of exposing folly and revealing truth.

Of course, a performance like this is made to be seen and heard, not to be read in transcribed form. Nonetheless, I find much of it so pithy and so well said that I like to have the words before my eyes. So by all means, watch the video before you read what follows. But once you have watched it, if you find Ó Briain’s words as well chosen as I do, you may want to refer to the following transcript of the stretch of this performance running from about 1:40 to 4:20.
But there’s a kind of notion that “Every opinion is equally valid.” My arse! Bloke who’s a professor of dentistry for forty years does not have a debate with some idiot [eejet] who removes his teeth with string and a door, right? It’s nonsense! And this happens all the time with medical stuff on the television. You’ll have a doctor on and they’ll talk to the doctor and be all “Doctor this” and “Doctor that,” and “What happened there?” and “Doctor, isn’t it awful?”, right? And then the doctor will be talking about something with all the benefit of research and medical evidence, and they’ll turn away from the doctor in the name of “balance,” and turn to some—quack—witch doctor—homeopath—horseshit peddler on the other side of the studio!

And I’m sorry if you’re into homeopathy. It’s water! How often does it need to be said? It’s just water. You’re healing yourself; why don’t you give yourself the credit? Jesus, homeopaths get on my nerves, with the old “Well, science doesn’t know everything”! Well, science knows it doesn’t know everything, otherwise it would stop. But it’s aware of it, you know? Just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean that you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale most appeals to you.

“Oh, well, the great thing about homeopathy is that you can’t overdose on it.” Well, you can fucking drown! I’m sorry: it seems harsh, and I used to be much more generous about it, but right now I would take homeopaths and I would put them in a big sack with psychics, astrologers, and priests, and I’d close the top of the sack with string, and I’d hit them all with sticks. And I really wouldn’t worry who got the worst of the belt of the sticks, right? Anyone who in answer to the difficult questions in life, to “I don’t know what happens after I die,” or “Please, what happens after my loved ones die?” or “How can I stop myself dying?”—the big questions—gives them an easy bullshit answer, and you go, “Do you have any evidence for that?”, and they go, “There’s more to life than evidence”: get in the fucking sack!

I’m sorry, “Herbal medicine! Oh, herbal medicine’s been around for thousands of years!” Indeed it has, and then we tested it all, and the stuff that worked became “medicine,” and the rest of it is just a nice bowl of soup and some potpourri, so knock yourselves out. “Chinese medicine, oh, Chinese medicine! But there are billions of Chinese, Chinese medicine must be working.” Here’s the skinny on Chinese medicine: A hundred years ago the life expectancy in China was 30. The life expectancy in China at the moment is 73. And it’s not feckin’ tiger penis that turned it around for the Chinese. Didn’t do much for the tiger either, if you don’t mind me pointing out.
There is one further joke at the expense of the Chinese before the next burst of laughter and applause from the audience, but I have omitted it, as I think it appears to disadvantage when transcribed.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A False Truism

The common saying “Everything happens for a reason” is neither true nor a truism, but a swindle in which the preposterous is peddled in the guise of the obvious.

Logo of the True/False Film Festival

A truism is a statement that is self-evidently true. A false truism would be a statement taken for a truism that is in fact not one, either because it is true but not self-evidently so or because it is not true at all. In the latter case, it is doubly false: it is not a truism, and it is not true. The saying “Everything happens for a reason” is a false trusim of this double-dyed sort.

How does a falsehood get mistaken for a truism? Typically by a woolly-minded, or a devious, confusion with a truism. The saying “Everything happens for a reason” gets its hold on people’s minds, or at least their mouths, by a confusion of elements of two truths that are entirely distinct from it and from each other.

If you deny the saying “Everything happens for a reason,” people who are attached to it may react by saying, “So you think things can happen for no reason at all?” And now you may find yourself embarrassed; for an affirmative answer seems to imply that you think that things can happen without any cause. Thus, the saying in question gains some appearance of cogency from its suggestion of the entirely distinct thought that for everything that happens, there is a reason why it happens. The latter thought is, if not a truism, at least a truth, apart from such arcane reaches as quantum mechanics and cosmogony. It means merely that everything that happens is a consequence of some cause or causes.

Why, for example, does the sun go higher in the sky in summer than in winter? Because the earth’s axis is tilted relative to its orbit, and summer is the time of year when the polar tilt in a given hemisphere is toward the sun, winter the time when it is away from the sun. Why has my car’s fuel mileage suddenly gotten worse? I don’t know why, but I will take it to a repair shop so that a mechanic can find the reason. And so on. These are examples of the use of the concept of a reason why something happens.

The phrase “for a reason” has an entirely different meaning and a different range of application. We can ask for what reason someone does this or that, but it makes no sense to ask about the reason for an occurrence that is not the act of an intelligent agent. For instance, say a creaking sound comes through the ceiling. We might ask: “Why does that happen?” The answer might be: “Someone is walking around in the apartment upstairs.” That is the reason, or a reason, why the creaking happens. We might then ask further: “Why is the person upstairs walking around?” The answer might be: “She has things to do around her apartment (and why shouldn’t she walk around up there, anyway?).” That is the reason—or, again, a reason—for her walking around, or her reason for walking around.

Now consider the question: “For what reason does the ceiling creak?” This is a conflation of two different forms of expression. The ceiling does not creak for a reason; the ceiling does not have a reason for creaking. There is a reason why the ceiling creaks, but that is another matter entirely. It is senseless to attribute reasons to the ceiling because the ceiling is not an intelligent agent. If the person asking this ill-formed question meant exactly what he or she says, then he or she would have to think that the ceiling is an agent and that creaking is something that it does intentionally; for only then would it be intelligible to ask for what reason it does so. More likely, though, the question is just an affected or confused way of asking, “What causes the ceiling to creak?” (or more simply, “Why is the ceiling creaking?”).

So it is fair to say, “For everything that happens, there is a reason why it happens,” or to say, “Everything that is done intentionally is done for a reason.” The former is a truth, arguably a truism, and the latter certainly a truism, as it merely explicates the meaning of the expressions “intentional” and “(to do something) for a reason.” But when people say “Everything happens for a reason,” they do not mean either one of these things, though their utterance gains its appearance of plausibility from its suggestion of both. What do they mean? It is not easy to answer this question, as the utterance gains its hold on people’s minds precisely by its confusion and obscurity.

One cannot translate nonsense into sense, but one can sometimes identify a coherent thought that is half-expressed, half-concealed in an incoherent utterance. In the case of the saying “Everything happens for a reason,” the half-expressed, half-concealed thought is that everything that happens does so because some intelligent agent, whether human or superhuman, makes it happen for some reason. But the saying can only appear truistic by omitting all mention of agency. It incoherently combines the expression “for a reason,” which implies an agent, with “things happen,” which implies no agent (as I noted in my previous entry in this blog with reference to a recent utterance by Newt Gingrich).

Once the implicit thought is made explicit, it loses all appearance of truism, and indeed of plausibility. If someone said, “Everything that happens is intentionally made to happen by some agent or other,” the utterance, if it were not simply dismissed with a snort, would provoke such questions as “How do you know that? What agent or agents do you have in mind? What basis can you possibly have for such an extravagant claim? Do you seriously mean to imply that when I sneeze, there is a sneeze-spirit of some kind that makes me sneeze? Or that God pushes the molecules around to tickle my nose?” And so on. Few people would be willing to commit themselves to such a fatuous claim. Yet millions of speakers are unashamed to utter and to accept a saying in which this very thought is conveyed by subterfuge.

The saying is not just confused, preposterous, and dishonest: it is also insulting to victims of serious misfortune. Those who say to such persons, “Everything happens for a reason,” are almost certainly playing either Polyannas or Job’s comforters. The Polyannas mean that your misfortune serves some good end beyond itself. The Job’s comforters mean that you had it coming to you. Both meanings are obnoxious, as they trivialize the victim’s suffering and even put the victim in the wrong for feeling it. I include the qualification “almost certainly” in my statement because it is just possible that such people intend a different meaning: they could (though I doubt that many do) mean that God, or whatever spirit caused your misfortune, did so for a reason that has nothing to do with justice or goodness. The point is not to console the sufferers but to remind them that we are all helplessly in the shit together. This, to my mind, is the primary thought of the Book of Job, as I have argued in a previous entry, contra Rabbi Harold Kushner; though most people, Rabbi Kushner among them, prefer to impose a more conciliatory meaning upon that terrible tale.

Friday, March 11, 2011

How Many Forms of BS Can You Spot in This Utterance?

Newt Gingrich on his dark past: “There’s no question that at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard, and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich recently gave an interview to David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. The first of the three clips posted by Brody at (March 8, 2011) begins with him asking Gingrich the following rather elliptical question (the transcriptions that follow are my own):
You know the question, and I’m not going to ask it the way everybody else will ask it, but as it relates to the past, and some of those personal issues that you’ve had. You’ve talked about how God is a forgiving God, and I’d like you to expand upon that: as you went through some of those difficulties, how you saw God’s forgiving nature in all of that.
Such is Brody’s delicacy that he never actually says what “the question” is. Perhaps he is presuming that his viewers will know that Gingrich is now on his third marriage; that his relationship with the woman who became wife no. 2 started while he was married to wife no. 1; that he initiated a divorce from wife no. 1 when she was recovering from surgery for uterine cancer; that his relationship with the woman who became wife no. 3 started while he was married to wife no. 2; that he initiated a divorce from wife no. 2 on the day when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; and that he has a history of further marital infidelities. (For Gingrich’s marital history, see the pages at on Gingrich’s first and second marriages; for his other infidelities, see this article at Frontline.) These matters are presumably the “personal issues” to which Brody vaguely refers. Gingrich replies:
Well, I mean, first of all, there’s no question that at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard, and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate. And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet—I was doing them. I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness—not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness—and that I do believe in a forgiving God. And I think most people, deep down in their hearts, hope there’s a forgiving God.
Now, to be fair, Brody did not ask Gingrich to confess his misdeeds, but only to tell how he understood God’s forgiveness in relation to those misdeeds, whatever they were. Nonetheless, to speak intelligibly of being forgiven, one must at lest acknowledge misconduct. And Gingrich does indeed get around to saying that he “was doing things that were wrong.” It is interesting, though, to see how much evasion and obfuscation he commits before he gets there. Consider his first sentence: At times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, I worked far too hard, and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. There are so many forms of dishonesty and cowardice packed into this fairly short utterance that it is instructive to try to identify them individually.

(1) Let us start with the most obvious one: “partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country.” One is reminded of Samuel Johnson’s remark upon the resort to patriotism by scoundrels. Here Gingrich suggests that the ultimate motive of his marital misconduct was love of country—or, as the headline of an article by Jack Stuef at Wonkette more satirically puts the claim, that “Newt Gingrich committed adultery because America made him horny.” By trying to attribute his bad conduct to a good motive, Gingrich follows the most commonly practiced strategy of reply to the bullshit interview question “What do you consider your greatest weakness?”, namely to admit to a weakness that is really a strength. In fact, he virtually repeats the best-known bullshit answer: “I sometimes care about my work too much!”

(2) To be sure, Gingrich includes the qualifier “partially,” as if sensing that, without it, his assertion might be a more blatant absurdity than even people who consider him a credible political figure would be able to accept. But that merely compounds the disingenuousness of his statement. The absurdity is not the idea that love of country can be the sole motive to betraying one’s marriage partner, but that it can be such a motive at all. The addition of the word “partially” is a sop thrown to those credulous or dull-minded enough to miss this point.

(3) Perhaps what Gingrich means to attribute to his love of his country is not his marital infidelities but only his working “far too hard,” with the implication that this in turn created the conditions leading to such misconduct. But how so? We have only the bare conjunction of the phrases “I worked far too hard” and “things happened in my life that were not appropriate.” There is no indication of how those two facts are supposed to be related. The attempt to draw blame from his conduct off into the forgivable or even laudable habit of “working too hard” is lost in vagueness.

(4) Compare the following two phrases:
(a) I worked hard.
(b) Things happened.
Notice that the speaker of (a) identifies himself as an agent, while the speaker of (b) does not identify any agent at all, but only uses the vague grammatical subject “things.” When Gingrich is speaking of conduct that may be reckoned to his credit, he identifies himself as an agent: “I worked far too hard.” When he is speaking of his misconduct—perhaps to describe him as “speaking of it” gives him too much credit; “obliquely alluding to it” seems nearer the mark—he disappears in a puff of evasion: “things happened in my life.” This is, of course, a variant of that watchword of the inveterately irresponsible, “Mistakes were made.”

(5) “Not appropriate.” I have saved the worst for last. I know of no phrase whose use so concisely manifests the collapse of moral intelligence as does this one. But that collapse is not at all peculiar to Gingrich; it can be observed wherever English is spoken. An epidemic of stultification seems to have robbed people of the command of intelligent moral vocabulary. Having apparently lost command of terms like “outrageous” (now more commonly used, idiotically, as a term of praise), “unconscionable,” “irresponsible,” “cruel,” “selfish,” “base,” “dishonest,” and so forth, to say nothing of simple and obvious ones like “bad” and “wrong,” people wishing to speak of misconduct find nothing at their disposal but a puffed-up term of etiquette.

Surely we all know what “appropriate” means. A fur hat is not appropriate to wear with a linen suit; “fuck” is an inappropriate word to use in polite company; a Phillips-head screwdriver is not appropriate for driving slotted-head screws. The word “appropriate” is what logicians call a two-place predicate, one that indicates a relation between two things: paradigmatically, a is appropriate to b. What is not appropriate to one thing is typically appropriate to some other. To describe acts of marital infidelity as “things that were not appropriate” implies that their only fault is that they were done at the wrong time, on the wrong occasion, or with the wrong person, in some sense of “wrong” not yet specified—as, for instance, a plaid tie is wrong (inappropriate) to wear with astriped shirt.

Of course, it is safe to presume that Gingrich, like all other people who use this cretinous and obfuscating jargon, does not intend any of these implications. He surely does not mean that he chose the wrong women with whom to betray his wives, or the wrong occasions for doing so. But what does he mean? An associate with whom I was discussing Gingrich’s interview on Facebook made the comment: “The real mistake here is thinking that Mr. Gingrich attaches any meaning other than dog-whistle meaning to his words.” Setting aside the question whether Gingrich has pitched his whistle correctly for the evangelical Christian audience that he hopes to influence, this seems to me correct. When Gingrich describes his former conduct as “not appropriate,” there is not much to be said about what, if anything, he means by his words, in the sense of intending something capable of being true or false. Yet he surely means to do something by uttering those words. I would say that he means to indicate repentance without actually acknowledging misconduct. He does not admit to having acted selfishly, exploitatively, deceptively, cruelly, or irresponsibly; he does not admit to having acted at all; he simply describes “things that happened” in his life as “not appropriate.”

Well, that’s my attempt to analyze the utterance of this paragon of dishonesty and moral cowardice. Does anyone see anything that I have missed?