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

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/1/2019: Ethics Is Busting Out All Over! Mostly BAD Ethics…

Happy June!

1. Boycott/extortion update! Let’s see if Georgia has as much guts and principle as Alabama, and tells Disney to go fly a kite.

Hugh Culverhouse, Jr., the University of Alabama’s largest donor,  called for a boycott of Alabama , both the University and the state , because of Alabama’s defiant, anti-Roe  abortion ban, recently signed into law. The university’s law school was renamed Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law last September 2018 after the Florida businessman pledged  $26.5 million to the university. In response to Culverhouse’s boycott call, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John recommended to the Board of Trustees that it return the $21.5 million  the law school it has actually received from Culverhouse, and restore the name to “The University of Alabama School of Law.”

Good. That’s exactly how states should respond to attempted extortion by individuals and corporations to control their lawmaking and bend the state to their wills rather than the decisions of voters. The whole story is at TaxProf Blog.

2. Nah! A reverend like, say, Martin Luther King would never engage in the kinds of sordid acts his biographer claims! They are men of God!

Bobby J. Blackburn, the pastor of Elevate Church in Prestonsburg, Kentucky,  was arrested this week and  charged with the prohibited use of an electronic communication system to procure a minor to commit a sex act. Blackburn is also the owner of Giovanni’s, a pizza restaurant in Prestonsburg. A girl who worked there showed a police sergeant images of an iMessage conversation she had with Blackburn in which he asked the minor to engage in a “threesome” with him and another girl, also a minor. He also made other sexually explicit requests.

Rev. Bobby tried to weasel out of his mess by bringing a third young woman to the police station and having her claim that she sent the incriminating messages from his phone. It didn’t work: under questioning, she admitted that she was lying and that Blackburn ordered  her to make the false claim under threat of losing her job.

I hear he’s one heck of a pastor, though! Continue reading