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”: Continue reading

Observations On The President’s Stupid Hurricane Map “Scandal.”

Destined to take its place in “resistance” and mainstream media obsessions along side President Trump’s stubborn misrepresentation of his inauguration crowd, the controversy over the bizarrely altered Dorian path  map was one more in a long nauseating chain of similar incidents. If you were lucky enough to miss it, here’s the scoop.

In the middle of a Labor Day tweeting frenzy, President Trump issued an erroneous tweet that Alabama would be affected by Hurricane Dorian. I have no trouble in filing this part under “Who cares?” He’s not a meteorologist, a scientist or even a relaible source of information. Over-heated and contrived complaints that his goof “endangered citizens” are just familiar Trump derangement: anyone who depends on the President for weather predictions when there are so many obviously more reliable authorities available may be doing the gene pool a favor.

Officials with the National Weather Service quickly issued a public correction, tweeting, “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.” That should have ended it

But, in the throes of the kind of inexplicable, self-destructive, foolish impulse that we have all grown to expect and love, President Trump then appeared in a video released by the White House in which he displayed a weather forecast map, dated from 11 a.m. on Aug. 29, supposedly showing that Alabama would  be affected. The graphic appeared  to have been crudely altered with a black Sharpie, however, as you can see above.

“We had, actually, our original chart was that it was going to be hit — hitting Florida directly,” Trump says. “That was the original chart,” Trump said. “It could’ve, uh, was going towards the Gulf.”  Later, he tweeted out that chart, saying,

This was the originally projected path of the Hurricane in its early stages. As you can see, almost all models predicted it to go through Florida also hitting Georgia and Alabama. I accept the Fake News apologies!

Here’s the  chart that he tweeted:

It also includes misleading lines drawn onto the graphic.

Why, why, WHY??

Observations: Continue reading