Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/26/17

1. I am puzzled that no respected journalism source—assuming arguendo that there is one—hasn’t taken on the New York Times’ alleged list of President Trump’s “lies,” which was in my Sunday Times and released on-line earlier. I will do it today, but it shouldn’t fall to me, or other similarly obscure analysts. Why, for example, hasn’t the Washington Post taken this golden opportunity to prove how biased, dishonest and incompetent its rival is? Because, you see, the list is disgraceful, and smoking gun evidence of the Times’ abdication of its duty to its readers, except its own perceived duty to give them around the clock Trump-bashing.

The other thing I’m puzzled about is why I continue to subscribe to the New York Times.

2. One possible reason: The Sunday Times is now a weekly collage of the various derangements, false narratives and  obsessions of the Left, and worth reading just to witness how 1) bias makes you stupid and 2) how unmoored to reality one can be and still be judged worthy of op-ed space. Here, for example, is “Black Deaths, American Lies” (the print title), a screed by Ibram X. Kendi, a professor of history at American University in Washington, D.C. (Disclosure: I was also a professor at American University. But I was an honest and apolitical one.)

The first line is, “Why are police officers rarely charged for taking black lives, and when they are, why do juries rarely convict?” This is deceit: an honest scholar wouldn’t have written it, and an ethical editor wouldn’t have allowed it to get into print. The sentence implies that officers are less rarely charged and convicted when they take white lives, and this is not true. In the print version, the article is headed by a touching photo of a street memorial to Mike Brown, whom we now know got himself shot. The Black Lives Matter narrative that Brown was murdered is still carried on by racist activists, ignorant members of the public, cynical politicians  and unethical figures like Kendi, who lend their authority to divisive falsehoods.  Kendi then focuses on the Philandro Castile shooting, as if its facts support his thesis. They don’t. First, the officer was charged, though he shouldn’t have been. Second, we have now seen the video, which clearly shows that after telling the officer that he had a gun, Castile reached into his pocket and began pulling out his wallet as the obviously panicked officer shouted at him not to pull out his gun. Just as the video proves that the officer was unfit to be a cop, it shows that he was in fear of his life and why. He could not be convicted of murder on that evidence. Never mind: The professor writes,

“Many Americans asked this question when a Minnesota jury decided that Philando Castile was responsible for his own death and that the officer who shot him, Jeronimo Yanez, did nothing wrong. Many Americans asked it again a few days later, when the police released the seemingly damning video from the dashboard camera of Officer Yanez’s patrol car…They cannot help blaming Mr. Castile, even though he calmly told the officer about his registered gun, even though he never pulled it out, even though he had been stopped by officers 49 times in 13 years.”

The only word for this is unconscionable.  The jury decided that the officer was not guilty of murder, and that’s all it decided. There is no “the v ictim was responsible for his own death” verdict. Nonetheless, the video demanded a not-guilty verdict. It also demands civil damages for the victim’s family and the firing of the officer. The fact that Castile, without being asked, told the officer that he had a gun and then reached into his pocket got him shot; it doesn’t matter how calmly he said it. It doesn’t matter in the determination of guilt whether Castile pulled the gun out; what matters is that the officer thought he was pulling it out, and was obviously in fear of his life. Either the professor is bone-ignorant about criminal law, or is intentionally misleading his readers.

Finally, how many times Castile had been stopped is no more relevant to the matter of the officer’s guilt than what breakfast cereal he liked.

Earlier, the professor plays numbers games by writing that “black males aged 15 to 34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers last year.” Here is the number that matters: in 2016 963 Americans were shot, and 233 of them were black. More than twice as many were white.

Maybe Trump should commission a list of New York Times “lies.”

3. I was going to write a full post about the school that photoshopped  and edited Trump quotes and slogans out of its student yearbook, but even worse tales intervened, which is itself disturbing.

Wall High School in New Jersey eliminated all references to President Trump, including legends on T-shirts, in its annual yearbook. The reason wasn’t that the slogans and quotes violated any policies, dress codes or yearbook requirements. The reason—obviously–was that the faculty supervisor is a member of “the resistance,” and somehow thought this was justified. This means that the teacher cannot be trusted to teach or supervise students.

Grant Berardo, a junior at the school, took his school pictures wearing a navy blue “Make America Great Again” shirt from the campaign. His photo  was digitally altered to appear as a solid black shirt.

Montana Dobrovich-Fago was freshman class president, and class presidents are allowed to pick a quote to accompany their pictures. “I like thinking big. If you are going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big,” a Trump’ quote, was what Dobrovich-Fago chose. It was edited out. Montana’s older brother, Wyatt Dobrovich-Fago, wore a sweater vest with a Trump logo for his school pictures. The logo was cropped out of the photograph.

In a weasel letter to parents, Superintendent Cheryl Dyer of  the Wall Township Public Schools, blamed “mistakes.” Although even she couldn’t deny that  photoshopping of  the T-shirt was an accident, she blamed the others on “carelessness or lack of attention to detail or lack of sufficient proofreading.”

Thus do our young learn that adults in authority lie to avoid accountability.

“I do not believe that it is possible to create a yearbook of 248 pages, thousands of pictures, names, and lines of text and have it be error free,” said Dyer, irrelevantly. She then listed other mistakes and typos, as if this explained what was self-evident political censorship.

“That being said, I cannot allow the intentional change that was not based on dress code to be ignored. I am the Chief School Administrator in this district and I take responsibility for the actions of those who are employed here. Therefore, I have determined that a re‐issuance of the yearbook is necessary,” she concluded.

 

Digital media teacher Susan Parsons,  the yearbook adviser, was suspended with pay because of the incident. That’s right: a teacher imposes her political views on the students and the yearbook, as well as engaging in unethical and deceptive publishing practices, but still has her job.

28 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society, Workplace

28 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/26/17

  1. valkygrrl

    3: My highschool would have never allowed a shirt with any political slogans on it in the yearbook. For that matter, it wouldn’t have allowed a boy to wear a shirt without a collar in the individual yearbook photo.

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      That would be a legitimate dress code decision. To allow one kind of slogan but not others, though, is a problem. Quotes are frankly stupid anyway. Believe it or not, a classmate of mine listed as his “quote” all catchphrases directed at ME. I wonder what he’d say now, almost 30 years later, if asked just WHY he was so damn obsessed with a classmate he hated?

      • valkygrrl

        Perhaps he’s say ‘Senpai noticed me’.

        • Steve-O-in-NJ

          Hardly, valky. A senpai is an admitted superior, and that wasn’t the case. This was more an example of personal hatred and relentless targeting of one person you hated. I must admit, I took a leaf from this jerk, who the brothers never did a damn thing about, and gave a few people I knew in college far more grief than anyone has a right to give, thinking the administration would take the same high school tack and tell anyone harassed or teased to “just ignore it.”

      • Steve, doesn’t hate imply an obsession? So the answer to your question is he was obsessed with you because he hated you.

  2. Tyberius A.

    Jack,

    You stated, “Earlier, the professor plays numbers games by writing that “black males aged 15 to 34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers last year.” Here is the number that matters: in 2016 963 Americans were shot, and 233 of them were black. More than twice as many were white.”

    However, how many whites vs blacks that were shot/killed were unarmed? I think that may be a better comparison and will speak to the concerns of those who might fall victim biased reporting, which I admit there is evidence of.

    You have to understand and acknowledge that the REAL concern (by those who are sincere; not the purposely deceitful) is that there is a higher risk for minorities to be targeted than whites and that life threatening violence will be the result. To not address this concern is to imply, rightly or wrongly, that it doesn’t happen and people just make up imaginary biases. Is that your position?

    • Chris

      Yes, I also found that paragraph strange. There are more than twice as many whites as there blacks in the US; I don’t see how Jack can say that the latter stat is more relevant than the former.

    • The issue is whether cops are less likely to be charged and convicted when they shoot blacks than whites. That is the author’s statement. Because he can’t back that up, since there is no evidence that it is true, he throws up all sorts of smoke. “black males aged 15 to 34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers last year.” What does that mean? Does it mean that this demographic engages in a disproportionate number of crimes? (Yes, but then why not compare apples to apples—white males aged 15 to 34? Because the contrast isn’t so dramatic, that’s why.

      Sure, there is a higher risk for groups that proportionately perform more crimes to be targeted (regardless of the reason—class, unemployment, culture, drugs, education, single parent homes…), and groups that live in high crime areas to have run-ins with the police. Chicken and egg. Do police assume that a young black man is more likely a perp than a young white man? Yup. Is that fair to any individual? Nope. Is it bias? Yup. Is it bias unsupported by police experience? Nope

      Does that bias increase the likelihood of blacks being shot in confrontations with police? Yup. Does the fact that articles like this teach blacks that they should fear officers as potential assassins, and thus resist arrest in situations where a white man might not? Yup. Is THAT fair to any individual police officer who is being profiled just as unjustly as a black pulled over for a traffic stop? Nope!

      Do I know how to break this cycle? NO. But distorting the issue like this article does is certainly no help at all, and makes the problem worse.

      None of which has a damn thing to do with whether cops are less likely to be charged and convicted when they shoot blacks than whites.

      • Tyberius A.

        And therein lies the disconnect… in five impassioned paragraphs, you never answer my question. You defend a position that was never under any attack as I readily mentioned that there is a lot of biased reporting on these types of racially charged issues.

        I am not defending the author of the article, but asked if you can address the concerns of those who would be influenced by the use of such statistics. Only by doing so, does it move the conversation from “Us vs. them” to how to better (ethically) address the inequities in society. Until that happens, quite frankly, your response is just as worthless as his.

        • I sure did answer your question. Your “question” was: You have to understand and acknowledge that the REAL concern (by those who are sincere; not the purposely deceitful) is that there is a higher risk for minorities to be targeted than whites and that life threatening violence will be the result. To not address this concern is to imply, rightly or wrongly, that it doesn’t happen and people just make up imaginary biases. Is that your position?

          I wrote:

          Sure, there is a higher risk for groups that proportionately perform more crimes to be targeted (regardless of the reason—class, unemployment, culture, drugs, education, single parent homes…), and groups that live in high crime areas to have run-ins with the police.

          Do police assume that a young black man is more likely a perp than a young white man? Yup.

          Does that bias increase the likelihood of blacks being shot in confrontations with police? Yup.

          Is that not enough “acknowledgement” for you? Did alluding to the reasons blacks are targeted without explicitly assigning the reason as race prejudice confuse you? Sorry.

          The “concerns” of “those who would be influenced by such statistics” are the false concerns that police aren’t treated equally when they shoot white vs black citizens—the topic of the article…unless you mean something else. But as far as ” in five impassioned paragraphs, you never answer my question”, goes that’s not true, a a smear. I answered it directly and clearly, and if you can’t read, that’s not my fault.

          You owe me an apology.

          • Tyberius A.

            Okay, allow me to get this straight; if I say that you didn’t answer my question on a topic of discussion, you consider that to be a “smear” but to imply that I cannot read is an ethical response to said question? And that requires an apology? Surely you jest…

            The fact of the matter is you did not answer the question. What you did, again, was merely defend something that was never under attack, namely your abhorrence of the use of biased statistics. What the author did was wrong, but your response, as I pointed out, was also not helpful. Your response and others like it merely serve to drive a bigger wedge between people of divergent views. The question was simply, how should society respond to minorities that have concerns about bias from law enforcement? Not that cops are not being treated fairly.

            I spoke about this in other posts, but the key here is that we should seek to understand why people act as they do. Not to be converted to their way of thinking, but to address the underlying concerns of what motivates their point of view. Rehashing the obvious does not do that.

            If ethical discourse is about using universal standards of right and wrong to apply them in current events, then surely doing so involves not simply that we respond but HOW WE RESPOND.

            Listen, granted this is an emotional topic. I will drop the conversation and my participation in said topic if we are not going to get anywhere further by discussing the issue. I will also remove myself permanently from your blog if my discourse or the style of it offends your sensibilities. However, what I will NOT do is apologize for some perceived personal slight that was neither implied nor intended. I addressed your RESPONSE; not YOU personally and if that was somehow misunderstood I will accept responsibility for that.

            You let me know where we go from here.

            • Where we go from here is that you’re suspended on this thread. I answered your question twice, and I’m not doing it again. You’re being obstinate—or you can’t read. Either way, you’ve disqualified yourself, and emotion has nothing to do with it.

            • Huh. This escalated quickly. You may not be able to reply, Tyberius, but here are some things to consider.

              1. An apology is not necessarily an admission of guilty intent–in fact it’s usually for mistakes, as a signal that you are friendly, or at least not hostile. Sometimes it reflects the need to change, but not always. It also does not imply that the other person has nothing to apologize for. You’d be surprised at who you can get to listen to you if you apologize.

              2. Jack hates being misrepresented and misunderstood, which I can relate to a great deal. You thought he was dodging the question, which something he takes pride in not doing. Jack then escalated by implying you couldn’t read, which as you point out is a retaliatory insult. Apologizing would be giving him the benefit of the doubt, even if you think you’re right, and would allow you both to continue until you figure out who is actually mistaken.

              3. Looking back over the discussion, I think Jack did answer your question. I’m not positive, though, because you don’t seem to clearly rephrase the question when you say he didn’t answer it. From what I gather, your question is, “do you acknowledge that a black person between ages 15-34 is more likely than a white person of the same age to be shot by the police?”, and Jack said yes, though he also listed other contextual details that might have been confusing. I’m not really sure where you were ultimately going with the question, though.

              4. “Here is the number that matters: in 2016 963 Americans were shot, and 233 of them were black. More than twice as many were white.” You’re right, that’s not a very well-constructed rebuttal. It seems like an apples/oranges comparison, and I think that’s what prompted this line of questioning. Jack’s response to you later on demonstrated a better assessment of the situation, I felt.

              If you apologize to Jack, we may continue the discussion if you’re interested.

              • See, even you can’t tell what question T. was asking. I now gather that he wanted a statement that I did not believe that bias often plays a role in police shootings, which I did not say and in fact is contrary to what I know, or a statement that blacks are targeted for shooting by police,a d hat juries allow them to get away with it due to entrenched prejudice, which is garbage.

                The stat I cited wasn’t used as a rebuttal to anything, but rather to use a statistic that truthfully frames the context of the problem, while citing the about “9 times” stat just confuses the issue. Accusing me of ducking a question that I took the time to answer, especially a “gotcha!” question, will not end well here, ever, because I run the forum, and will not be treated like that by guests.

                • Yeah, on second glance, the statistic does refute the “9 times” issue, no matter how you slice it, unless the percentage of the population that is black has shrunk considerably.

                  I most often tend to run into people who attempt to tell me what I think (or what I’m capable of thinking). That usually doesn’t end well, either.

  3. Re #3. I wrote about this (and another case) yesterday, but somehow managed to missed the USA Today article, which provides some specifics I hadn’t seen. So thanks for that.

    I do think you might be a bit harsh with respect to the Superintendent–she no doubt had to field a lot of complaints about errors and omissions that almost certainly were inadvertent, so her letter may have been responding to those concerns, as well, and she clearly delineates between those mistakes and the intentional photoshopping of the shirt. She suspended the advisor pending a more thorough investigation. I’d call that due process.

  4. The T-Shirt photo-shopping reminds me of a highfreakin’larious UW-Madison effort to show the appearance, (“appearance” is just as good as the real thing, right?) of their commitment to diversity.

    The picture of an enthusiastic Camp Randall crowd (GO BADGERS!) on the cover of a the 2001-02 undergraduate application booklet needed a little “goosing.”

    So what does Admissions do? Send ‘er on down to the “Fixers” who proceed to inject a little diversity by…um…including then student Diallo Shabazz.

    Small problem, Shabazz had never been to Camp Randall.

    http://www.npr.org/2013/12/29/257765543/a-campus-more-colorful-than-reality-beware-that-college-brochure

    Not unlike “Harvard Law’s First Woman Of Color” being the pasty-white Elizabeth Warren.

    Academia is very sensitive to ”diversity” and ”image.”

    If the reality is that the “image” of ”diversity” doesn’t sufficiently communicate their being diverse, just make some minor adjustments by manufacturing it.

  5. dragin_dragon

    Jack wrote:
    “in 2016 963 Americans were shot, and 233 of them were black. More than twice as many were white.” In the 2010 census, 12.6 of the population was African-American, 72.4% white and 2.9% more than 2 races. Thus, of 963 shootings, assuming the percentages remained more or less stable, those numbers SHOULD African-Americans, 144; whites 697. Whites were actually 730. Draw your own conclusions.

  6. E2 (nee Elizabeth I)

    Frankly, I’m getting pretty sick of the numbers game. In 2015 a poll showed that the great majority of Americans believed that blacks make up about 35% of the US population, rather than the +/-14% they do comprise.

    Is this because more blacks are shot by police than their percentage numbers would suggest? Is this because the liberal, anti-police media grinds and grinds on the number of blacks killed by police? Is it because blacks actually commit more crime than whites (or are caught more often because theirs are violent crimes as opposed to non-violent — hate to use the term — white collar crimes? Is it because Black Lives Matter and white lives don’t? I don’t have the answers to these questions, and I’m not sure anyone else does.

    All this discussion is relatively meaningless until the facts are actually clear. And because no one seems to want the facts to become actually clear, the discussion is no discussion at all: just an excuse to espouse either liberal or conservative ideologies.

    We have been paying the price for slavery, Jim Crow laws, and, yes, Affirmative Action for far too long. And there won’t be a true dialogue about it — ever. This is only one division in our nation, and the press wants to attach it to every single policy discussion. Who is right? No one, as far as I can see it now.

    (I do know, from previous work at a black think-tank, that more than 40% of blacks are now, statistically, in the middle class. This is just slightly lower than the number of whites that fit that same category. What kind of press does that fact get?? Zip.)

  7. Jeff

    Suspended with pay, huh? That’ll show her! “Maybe a little extra paid vacation will make you think twice before you pull a stunt like that again, Parsons! Next time, it’ll be a suspension with *double* pay!”

    Seriously, how did that ever become a punishment?

    • The chances are really good that Ms. Parsons is on a 9-month contract, with her salary spread out over 12 months. This is a standard option at educational institutions at all levels. In other words, all that is happening is the she is indeed being paid for work she’s already done. The suspension is what matters: that goes on her employment record. She’s probably not working this summer (on the clock), anyway.

      • If she’s not working anyway, then she’s not being suspended.

        If she’s being paid for work already completed, then that’s irrelevant also.

        I agree with your defense of the suspension with pay as a matter of due process, but I think these latter arguments sound like unnecessary spin on irrelevant tangents. (Just weakens your original, strong argument)

  8. a name

    Why does other Bill have an ad for his message? Seems weird since I just signed up with booking.com. Not a member of this forum, but was curious of this anomaly.

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