September has always been my favorite month at the beach….not that I’m at one. But I can dream…
1. Dumbest Ethics Train Wreck of the Year. Incredibly, people are still arguing over whether the President “lied” about Alabama being at risk from Hurricane Dorian, and the news media is still writing about it as if it mattered. I wish I had the time to make a list of all the real news stories with actual impact on the nation that the mainstream news media has buried or ignored in recent years to contrast with this nonsense. Of course, the President is also at fault, since he is incapable of letting stuff like this go, as, say, a well-adjusted adult and responsible leader would. The latest (from the AP);
…The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a statement from an unidentified spokesman stating that information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to the president had demonstrated that “tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.” The advisories were dated from last Wednesday, Aug. 28, through Monday, the statement read.
Friday’s statement also said the Birmingham NWS tweet Sunday morning “spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”
The statement from NOAA contrasts with comments the agency’s spokesman, Chris Vaccaro, made Sunday. “The current forecast path of Dorian does not include Alabama,” Vaccaro said at the time.
Friday’s NOAA statement, released just before 5 p.m., points to a few graphics issued by the National Hurricane Center to support Trump’s claims. The maps show percentage possibility of tropical storm force winds in the United States. Parts of Alabama were covered, usually with 5% to 10% chances, between Aug. 27 and Sept. 3. Maps on Aug. 30 grew to cover far more of Alabama, but for only 12 hours, and the highest percentage hit 20% to 30% before quickly shrinking back down.
Alabama was not mentioned in any of the 75 forecast advisories the hurricane center sent out between Aug. 27 and Sept. 2. From Aug 28 to Aug. 31, a handful of locations in Alabama were mentioned in charts that listed percentage chance of tropical storm force winds or hurricane winds, maxing out at about 7 percent chance for Whiting Field to get tropical storm force winds.
Former National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read blasted NOAA leadership Friday night on his Facebook page calling the situation “so disappointing” and saying he would comment because NOAA employees were ordered to be quiet.
“Either NOAA Leadership truly agrees with what they posted or they were ordered to do it. If it is the former, the statement shows a lack of understanding of how to use probabilistic forecasts in conjunction with other forecast information. Embarrassing. If it is the latter, the statement shows a lack of courage on their part by not supporting the people in the field who are actually doing the work. Heartbreaking,” Read wrote.
Takeaways: This is only news because 1) so many people will grab on to anything if it will allow them to denigrate the President and 2) the President acts the way he does.
2. Least shocking ethics story of the week: Campaigning in Cedar Rapids, Joe Biden grabbed pre-school teacher Jessica Roman’s hands and held them while he double-talked around her question about his plans to help unionized teachers deal with Iowa’s collective bargaining laws. She later told the news media that his physical contact was “unwelcome”:
“I think that he means well but, you know, he grabbed my hands right away and that was really uncomfortable,” she said “He was very close and, in my mind, I’m like, this is part of our problem: Not recognizing that you need to ask first, or can I shake your hand? Not just grab your hands and hang onto them. That bothers me.”
- She’s right.
- Joe is hopeless. He still can’t control himself.
- Will the party’s feminists and #MeToo furies really tolerate this right up to the election?
- Roman quite probably would not have complained if she were a Biden supporter, but she’s not. Again to make the 100% correct point that got me kicked off NPR, sexual harassment law permits it to be manipulated by political biases. This is an example.
3. Case Study in campus speech suppression. [Pointer: Steve Witherspoon].
This should be an easy quiz: What’s wrong with this email sent to the University of Wisconsin campus yesterday by administrators?
To our campus community,
Friday morning, what was intended as a protest to inspire action on environmental climate change had a very different and negative impact on many who witnessed it. Two students displayed nooses tied around their necks outside the Humanities Building.
The students involved have since apologized for their actions and committed to rectifying the impact they caused. We commend the university staff and members of our campus community who immediately intervened with the protesters and helped them understand the impact they were having. The protesters then removed the nooses.
The fact remains that members of our community were harmed. While the First Amendment guarantees the right to free expression, our community best succeeds when we express our views and promote a campus climate that is welcoming and safe to everyone.
We hope this experience can serve as a learning opportunity. Regardless of whether the display of a hateful symbol is based on a lack of cultural understanding or an expressed intent to promote fear, the lingering legacies of what these symbols represent create visceral and painful reactions among many. That harm is especially acute for people of color, for whom this history is very real.
Let’s be clear: ignorance is not an excuse. We can and must do better. For those of us who are members of majority communities, our campus offers many resources through Student Affairs and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement to learn about racism and injustice and about how to be strong allies.
And for those who are impacted by incidents like this, we want you to know that we support you and have resources to help.
Any students, faculty and staff who were impacted by this incident are invited to attend a discussion session at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at DeJope Residence Hall. It will be facilitated by staff from the Dean of Students Office and University Housing….
To emphasize what I assume you figured out by yourself, this chills campus speech. Though I regard the protest at issue stupid and inept, as I regard 90% of protests, the University’s complaint reeks of double standards and virtue-signalling. The use of nooses here does not suggest lynching and racism, because of its context. The school would not make a similar statement if American flags were burned or an effigy of President Trump were set on fire, and those gestures are no less offensive to many than the symbolic use of a noose. Nor was anyone “harmed” by the student protesters. Opinions, symbols and gestures do not harm healthy, normal people. Forcing the students to apologize was wrong and a direct affront to their right of expression.
4. Cancellation culture, or something else? Jamie Riley, a University of Alabama dean of students, was fired after the conservative Breitbart website published tweets from 2016 and 2017 in which Riley criticized the U.S. and the American flag for their role in racism, as well as other opinions relating to race. He had tweeted..
- “The [American flag emoji] flag represents a systemic history of racism for my people. Police are a part of that system. Is it that hard to see the correlation?”
- “I’m baffled about how the first thing white people say is, ‘That’s not racist!’ when they can’t even experience racism…You have [zero] opinion!”
- “Are movies about slavery truly about educating the unaware, or to remind Black people of our place in society”
Reason’s main reporter Robby Soave wrote,
[Breitbart reporter] Kyle Morris wrote that “a series of resurfaced tweets from Dr. Jamie R. Riley, the University of Alabama’s assistant vice president and dean of students, show he once believed the American flag and police in America are racist.” But the tweets didn’t just resurface on their own—they were publicized by the right-wing news site in order to send a social media mob after Riley….It seems clear that it was bad publicity from Breitbart that got Riley terminated. This was an entirely foreseeable consequence of writing such an article….
Many pundits on the right constantly inveigh against cancel culture: the drive to shame, punish, and ultimately destroy people for having said something trivially offensive at some point….I very much agree that cancel culture is bad….But as long as the right is perfectly willing to enforce its own version of political correctness, it is difficult to to believe that they really agree in principle that you shouldn’t do this kind of thing. If you only defend the cancelled when you agree with them, then you’re not actually against cancelling. You’re just protecting your tribe.
Conservatives, please condemn Breitbart for this hit job and demand the immediate reinstatement of James Riley.
- Riley was a fool to put such comments up on Twitter.
- If the University of Alabama felt such public sentiments undermined his ability to work for all students, black or white, then it should have checked his social media before hiring him.
- Such public statements DO undermine the trust of students who the University needs to ensure feel fairly treated and secure. The tweets are not irrelevant or just a “gotcha!”
- Soave referred to the tweets as “old.” 2016 and 2017 are not old. This is not akin to dredging up high school tweets from major league baseball players to embarrass them, which I have discussed here.
- Soave point about conservative hypocrisy is correct, and I endorse it, but this episode isn’t “cancellation culture.” A university has a legitimate interest in ensuring that its administrators do not have negative racial biases.
- I detest Breitbart, and put it on the Ethics Alarms “do not touch” list long ago. However, Soave is arguing that the site should not publicize information about a university official that it feels the public—and students have a right to know about. One can condemn the University for its reaction to the information (though I believe it is defensible) but not Breitbart for publicizing it. Obviously the tweets mattered, if the University felt that Rile should be let go.