Monday, January 16, 2017

"The mantra for Trump was drain the swamp? Most people think the U is a swamp."

Harsh words for Eric Kaler from Annette Meeks of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, as well as from former DFL Senator Don Betzold ("Well, there's always some scandal at the U.") Kaler was interviewed on KSTP. He is very confident that he has the support of the Regents.

"Borderline Personality Disorder has always been a synonym for the ‘difficult patient’ in psychiatric-speak."

It is a "diagnosis of invalidation," writes Jay Watts. "It shuts down our human response."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A man without shame, Plato said, is a slave to desire.

And social media, the new confessional, is a magnificent shame-removal device.

In Aeon, philosopher Firmin deBrabander writes:

The approbation of the digital crowd has come to fill in for the authority of the confessor – or, to put it another way, it acts as a substitute for Socrates’ inner voice of moral conscience. People unburden themselves to their followers in the hope that their needs will be validated, their opinions affirmed, their quirks delightfully accepted. The result is a growing conformity within camps, as well as a narrowing of the shared space for understanding and dialogue between them.

Those in positions of power have always craved a mechanism with which to expose the inner beings of citizens, to reveal ‘the fragment of darkness that we each carry within us’, as Foucault described it. There are, or seem to be, rather dangerous and wild expanses within each individual. If we are to be controlled, that must be made known, and tamed. There is no better way to divide and subdue a people, and seduce them into self-regulation, than to expose their perversions but promise absolution.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Like a zombie rising from the grave, this scandal refuses to die

Many universities have sexual assault scandals. Many have sexual harassment scandals. But how many of them manage to turn those scandals into a non-stop horror highlight reel?  For that, you need real public relations expertise. (Could this be why the U's former PR chief, Dan Wolter, is vice-chair of the advisory council that is choosing Regents for the legislature?)

The latest episode features Regent candidate Jim Carter, a former Gopher football player and vocal critic of the U administration who backed the football team during its ill-advised boycott threat. Earlier this week, The Pioneer Press reported that Carter sexually harassed a woman in the 1970s, when he was playing for the Green Bay Packers. (Specifically, reports said that a "receptionist sued Carter and the Packers, alleging the linebacker exposed himself to her in her work area, then 'blocked her exit with athletic shorts at his ankles.'”) Today the Star Tribune reports that Carter is accusing U leaders of orchestrating a campaign to discredit him.  

Jim Carter, a finalist for the University of Minnesota’s governing board, is accusing U leaders of trying to scuttle his candidacy after Twin Cities reporters received anonymous letters about a 1976 sexual harassment lawsuit against the former Green Bay Packer and his team.

Carter, one of three finalists for a vacancy in the Second Congressional District, said he has no evidence that University President Eric Kaler’s administration was involved in what he described as a smear campaign against him.

The letters included news clipping copies about an incident in which Carter exposed himself to a team receptionist and asked for oral sex. They promise to complicate Carter’s Board of Regents candidacy on the heels of the suspensions of Gophers football players involved in a sexual assault investigation and the firing of their coach — a highly publicized episode whose handling Carter has vocally criticized.

“I have no reason not to believe that President Kaler and his administration are not involved in this,” said Carter, a former Gopher.

This scandal is not dead. No PR flack can kill it. It is staggering towards Morrill Hall, drooling, eyes glazed, like an over-served athletic director. It is scraping its nails against the window. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

The bullshit asymmetry principle

Brandolini's Law: "The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it."

This is one of many things I learned from browsing the syllabus of an excellent new course offered at the University of Washington, "Calling Bullshit in an Age of Big Data." 

From the course synopsis:

The world is awash in bullshit. Politicians are unconstrained by facts. Science is conducted by press release. So-called higher education often rewards bullshit over analytic thought. Startup culture has elevated bullshit to high art. Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullshit, then take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with second-order bullshit. The majority of administrative activity, whether in private business or the public sphere, often seems to be little more than a sophisticated exercise in the combinatorial reassembly of bullshit.

We're sick of it. It's time to do something, and as educators, one constructive thing we know how to do is to teach people. So, the aim of this course is to help students navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combatting it with effective analysis and argument.

H/T @DailyNousEditor

Let's go Full Norwood with the Board of Regents!

We've got sexual harassment, sex tapes, and credible allegations of gang rape. For the Board of Regents, why not an ex-Packer and former Golden Gopher star who once asked a receptionist for oral sex, exposed himself to her at work, and “blocked her exit with athletic shorts at his ankles”? 

According to the Pioneer Press:

A recovering alcoholic, Carter recalled that he was drunk and in a hot tub while the rest of the team was practicing. He had seen the receptionist out at the bars, he said, and he asked her for oral sex. She refused and he didn’t press the matter, he said.

“That was it, nothing happened. I didn’t touch her or nothing,” he said.

Carter said he was addicted to alcohol and sex and was using marijuana regularly. That doesn’t excuse his behavior, he said, but he doesn’t think it’s relevant to his regents candidacy.

“It’s been 40 years. I think it’s time to let it go,” he said.

The Pioneer Press notes that Carter was a vocal supporter of the Gopher football team when it threatened to boycott the Holiday Bowl.

“I would not change anything at all about what I did in the way of supporting the team,” he said. “I believe what the players boycotted for and wanted to walk out for was transparency and fairness, and I would again support them for that. … It in no way signifies condoning sexual assault, sexual abuse, anything like that.”

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"The president-elect has enemies in profusion on the inside who are practiced at the art of the leak"

Goldengate is only the beginning, Jack Schafer writes in Politico. Donald Trump has made a big mistake by attacking and ridiculing his own intelligence agencies. "Even the president of the United States must sometimes stand naked, the poet once sang. In Trump’s case, he’s been fully pantsed before he's taken the oath."