Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/2019: Trump’s Obsession, Joe’s Hands, And University Ethics Stumbles

Good morning!

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.”

Four points:

  • 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.

Observations:

  • 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.

 

20 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/2019: Trump’s Obsession, Joe’s Hands, And University Ethics Stumbles

  1. 4. I’m stunned. The dean got in trouble for saying those things? They sound as if they’re lifted right out of a current sociology class lecture at any college or university in the country. I’m going to assume he’ll get a higher paying job at an Ivy League or University of California school before the weekend is out. Is anything he said at all controversial these days? He could be an editor at the New York Times! This is rote lefty catechism. I’m surprised the University of Alabama administrators didn’t come to his defense and promote him to president of the university. Weird.

      • I assume he’ll go back to the classroom. About him:

        “Brother Riley has focused his research and administrative practice on addressing the impact of culturally oppressive campus climates on the success of African-American and black male college students attending predominantly white institutions. Jamie’s doctoral dissertation, titled; Racism, Discrimination, and Prejudice: Through the Voices of Black Men on Predominately White College Campuses, investigated the impact of race and racism on African-American and black male students ability to thrive academically, socially, and developmentally.”

        In other words, the guy’s a superstar.

        “Before ascending to his until-Thursday position, he served as executive director and COO of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and in roles at Johns Hopkins University, The University of California-Berkeley and Morehouse College related to diversity and inclusion.”

        This guy is one of thousands. The University of Alabama will be pilloried as a cracker place.

  2. Oh, I agree the Right should not do hatchet jobs regarding the non-relevant error. (Like the baseball dumb statements) But there are far more hatchet jobs by the Left these days, embedded in all media. Bitching about something you’re doing too is the definition of hypocrisy.

    Two sections bothered me more than others:

    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.

    The missing ‘but’ almost screamed in my head. And then the ‘express and promote’ in the second part doesn’t even make grammatical sense. It’d be like saying everyone can go green, while our school does better when it goes green and promotes fire alarms. Free expression and not free expression cancel each other out… A safe world against all harm is unattainable and probably not a good idea. Progress is the idea we should keep striving.

    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

    The problem is that some can be horrified by the most common of things, that should not control everyone else. If a beaurocrat is afraid of dogs, they don’t get to demand we put ours outside in a snowstorm. If someone is afraid of Satanists, that should not preclude the common everyday interactions where religion is not relevant, like buying a soda. You can and should be kind to people in pain, but no one psychically knows what triggers everyone aroumd them. There are some topics you should restrain from over sharing at times, as a sign of maturity: visceral violence, sexual acts, suicide, and that creature known as Barney. Not that you can’t write that fanfiction, but a biker gang bar might be ill-advised.

    I know I would be disturbed by the noose imagry, and use of that makes me shun the cause, not join it. Also as its cheap theatrics from people undervaluing the symbol. Express what you want, but there are some venues that are stupid or cruel, and you must accept the consequences of shouting ‘Fire’ in a theater or a ROTC drill.

    I also don’t get the people who say the flag is oppressive. That’s fine if you feel that way, but that doesn’t mean you can demand it go away because you are afraid. You’re living in this country, see a shrink and get over it. OR, move to another country- just note that every country has skeletons in its closet, so sooner or later you will have to let your fears go.

    Using meaningful symbols is not likely to be ‘lack of cultural understanding.’ It is more likely they understand it better than you, loving something, warts and all. Do you cut off your 94 year old mother or grandmother with Alzheimer’s because the kind to all woman uses a non-PC term? She either fought or rationed through WW2, she lived through desegregation, watergate, and 9-11, she knows about the costs of freedom far more. Nothing is perfect, you can always strive to do better. But the corollaries include that you are not perfect, and you should not be hating on everything that’s not perfect.

    • COTD level commentary. Great job.

      Some nuggets:

      …very country has skeletons in its closet, so sooner or later you will have to let your fears go.

      Might I add that many other nations are unrepentant about their history, or cover it up as if it never happened? We address the wrongs of our past, paying in blood if necessary.

      :Bitching about something you’re doing too is the definition of hypocrisy.

      Status quo for the left in particular (you know what they have been doing by what the accuse others of) and politicians in general.

      …that creature known as Barney.

      Barney was not that bad, but did not age well.

  3. 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.

    He is correct, but the Left has made the new rules. It’s time to force them to play by them as well.

    When they figure out the new rules suck, we can all go back to the old rules, which sucked less.

    You know, there is ethics, and then there is bringing a knife to a gunfight. Soave can bring his knife. I think most people have rightly decided that’s a losing proposition.

    • I still can’t believe the guy was even called out for his tweets, never mind fired as a dean (and presumably sent back to a classroom job at the same pay). His tweets sound as if they are taken from his thesis or an Africana Studies or Sociology or Racial Studies course description in a catalogue. These sorts of things are also the foundational bases of the New York Times ongoing series saying America is nothing but racism incarnate.

  4. 3. According to the WSJ They said they modeled their protest after one in Europe that involved people in nooses standing on blocks of melting ice.

    These protesters had no racist intent & emulated a European protest strategy. While I think it’s a stupid way to make a statement whether from Europe or the United States, the point had nothing to do with denigrating blacks and should have been taken as such by reasonable people. Pulling those students aside to explain a potential misinterpretation would have been enough.

    However the anointed staff at the college appears to be unable to pass on a juicy opportunity to virtue signal while pandering, exploiting, and infantilizing their students of color.

    Let me offer a Wokeness decoder for what the UW of Madison was really saying.

    That harm is especially acute for people of color, for whom this history is very real.
    We privileged and progressive whites know blacks are a monolith who can’t discern context or utilize reason in such matters because victim…victim…victim.”

    And for those who are impacted by incidents like this, we want you to know that we support you and have resources to help.
    We have the power to help you because you can’t help or think for yourselves.”

    For those of us who are members of majority communities, our campus offers many resources through Student Affairs…
    Whites you better conform to the white privilege theory (for which a privileged white woman conjured) and join our ranks as representatives on the mission to make people of color feel increasingly in need of our radiant vision.”

    The school’s issued statement not only chills free speech but is ultimately a test about taking a “moral stand.” As Thomas Sowell explains in his essay The Tyranny of Visions, anointed visionaries tend to define problems like these psychologically, which may be why the statement notes “ignorance is not an excuse.”

    Instead a kind of therapeutic “discussion session” is offered by staff from the Dean of Students Office and University Housing, of whom I’m sure are all trained in Woke Speak and can offer word salad euphoria to balm these poor students emotionally shattered souls.

    Many years ago I used to hang out with my friend Becky at UW of Madison drinking contraband Hamm’s beers while playing darts. I miss those days and am glad we didn’t have to deal with such grandstanding.

    • “Many years ago I used to hang out with my friend Becky at UW of Madison drinking contraband Hamm’s beers while playing darts”

      Depending on how long ago you were in the Berkeley of the Midwest, ending up in Portland is kind of a natural progression…

  5. Clearly, nooses can only and ever mean the lynching of blacks just as the word enslaved can only and ever refer to the experience of blacks on this continent between the 16th and 19th centuries. After all, isn’t that what Martin Bashir whaled on Sarah Palin about?

  6. We lament Trumps unwillingness to let things go but what if the media had fact checked every every opinion or statement made by any other elected official and then hammered on that any dispute was irrefutable evidence that such official was a pathological liar does anyone believe that the official must just dig his or her heels in and fight.

    What if Obama and Pelosi were routinely called out as liars and demagogues by the press? The press never called Obama a liar on that” keep your plan/doctor” lie or his opinions on Trayvon, Michael Brown, Cambridge Police, and we still have much to learn about his counterintelligence operations late in his second term.

    I believe the difference between Trump and others is that it appears he does not let things go only because the media won’t drop issues that serve the narrative that Trump is foolish or lying.

    It’s obvious someone gave Trump bad info and he used it. Fire the incompetent aide or official that gave him the data. Now is the time for his trademarked ” You’re Fired! ” .

    • Oh, no doubt about it, the constant harassment and “gotcha!” help make Trump act this way, and they are CALCULATED to make him act this way. I have no doubt that if he was treated like every other President, with a modicum of basic good will and respect, he would be far more confident and less defensive.

      • I agree. I suppose my point is primarily that we do not know if Trump is acting any differently than any other politician. To determine that he is behaving outside “the norm” we would have to have had a press and opposition party seeking to undermine every president using suggestions of white supremacism,

        I don’t recall even Nixon taking such abuse.

  7. 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.

    Another perspective is possible, and I suggest that it is inevitable. I will also suggest that it is good, necessary, ethical & moral. At this point, to be fooled by *games of niceties* such as whether it is good or bad to write an article that exposes the anti-White sentiment that this man has established as an interior feature of his perception, is totally irrelevant.

    I suggest that once one grasps, with intellectual clarity, that the nature of ‘their’ game (the ‘progressive left’ and this general movement within Occidental culture, especially as it developed in the Postwar and got super-charged by the Sixties) is fundamentally and even thoroughly destructive (and this is an intellectual effort that takes months to fully grasp), at that point one can only ‘take oneself in hand’ and understand that the nature of the struggle is far more serious than almost anyone is letting on. It is at that point that one says — and must say (in my view) — “No, absolutely no”.

    But this does require clear seeing of the ‘movement of dispossession’ of Whites that has been initiated and is far advanced. And seeing that clearly, and coldly, is still very difficult for most. If I put it another way it might be more clear: if today you, you-plural, and *we* generally were to wake up and fully understand the present danger we would immediately arrive at a place of Zero Tolerance for the destructive Anti-White ideology that permeates culture. There would be millions and millions of people who suddenly would stop being cowardly and who would, literally, refuse to take it.

    I would suggest that the greatest enemy for us is the White who is fighting on the wrong side. But this has always been the case. The famous ‘White Liberal’ who like Nietzsche’s ‘priest’ takes up the side of the ‘other’ against the fundamental interests of his own people. But more than just ‘his people’: much more. It really all does have to do with the recognition and preservation of fundamental Occidental categories. But who can be made to understand this if that one will not put in the time and energy necessary to understand it?

    ‘Riley’ should be banished from our society. I say this of course knowing that it is impossible — now. This is where the necessity of separation of races and cultures becomes a necessary intellectual idea and one to be approached intellectually and rationally. This can’t go on. Do you really think you are going to influence ‘Riley’ at some point in time? Yes? Well, you are not and you had best see this. ‘Riley’ has as ‘his’ intention your destruction and the replacement of you.

    It is true that the ‘progressive left’ has first used the exposure & shaming strategy to brand its enemies. The reason is because ‘Conservative America’ had made its peace or some kind of entente with the minority masses. It best ‘conservatism’ so drastically that it became, and is, a branch of progressivism! It cannot believe what is going on today, and it refuses to see clearly what the ramifications are of this anti-White movement. It had already given up so much and now, it says to itself, “they want even more?!?”

    They wish you to disappear friend. They do not want you to ‘be’. That is the end result of the ‘movement of dispossession’. You will either see this . . . or you won’t.

    But though they *began* this — and perhaps it is useful to focus on Obama providing an initiative to put in motion all that we see roiling society today, the root is older and is different. Though it is hard to trace causation back to an absolute cause, or one sole cause, they clearly far antecede Barack Obama.

    Now, the question is Who will finish this? And what does that mean? If you think that the Progressive Left, whatever this is, which is so ensconsed at all levels — materially, academically, governmentally — are simply going to stop their activism, then you are much more than a fool. In my view, *you* and *we* must go far beyond ‘Brietbart’ — a merely complaining half-entertainment site — into the heart of the real material. It is there, you can get to it, but your fear and your cowardice hold you back.

    The key here? Stop being a coward. (I know this is bold, please forgive me. But it is my honest assessment and one that — at this point — is not going to change).

  8. (1) I can’t help but wonder if at least some of this has been manufactured by Trump to keep the press from noticing he is (I assume) in high level talks with Boris Johnson over trade or more. I say or more because there was an article last week that stated that Boris Johnson told Trump that the elimination of the British National Health Service (NHS) was completely off the table in the negotiations. What are they negotiating that might involve abolishing NHS? A merger?

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