Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/12/2020: Walking Through A Storm Edition

I don’t care what you say, it’s a good morning.

1. Coronavirus ethics report. Today, ethics Alarms officially dubs the epidemic and ethics train wreck.

  • Good one! Rudy Gobert, the 27-year-old centerfor the Utah Jazz, intentionally touched every surface, microphone and recorders during a session with reporters after the NBA had banned access to player in team locker rooms. He was making a pointed joke about the league’s alarmism over Covid-19. Three days later, he was diagnosed with the illness, and in response, the NBA suspended its season.
  • ARRGHH! It’s what everyone thought it was!!!! The stock market crashed after the World Health Organization called the pandemic, which everyone including me had been calling a pandemic for weeks, a pandemic yesterday. I don’t understand that reaction at all.
  • Adam Kucharski, a mathematician who specializes in measuring how diseases spread, told the New York Times that “on best available data, when we adjust for unreported cases and the various delays involved, we’re probably looking at a fatality risk of probably between maybe 0.5 and 2 percent for people with symptoms.” Obviously when you add people without symptoms who are infested, the fatality risk is lower. This means that President Trump’s “hunch” that the fatality rate was probably much lower than the 3% being widely quoted, for which he was attacked as a an idiot and a liar,  was probably correct.
  • A hint regarding what kind of values we’re teaching college students: Students at the University of Dayton in Ohio became furious that the school was closing because of COVID-19, so they rioted. An estimated 1,000 students at the University erupted into screaming and violence after they were told to leave campus over the Wuhan virus outbreak. At least one person was injured by a thrown bottle.
  • Remember televangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker? Tammy’s copious TV weeping  and dripping mascara? The scandal over hush money paid to a mousey church secretary, Jessica Hahn, for Jim Bakker allegedly raping her,  leading to his resignation from the ministry? How the scandal turned Hahn into a professional bimbo, with a Playboy spread and a brief career hosting soft porn videos? Tammy and Jim divorced, and Jim ended up in prison for fraud…Ringing any bells? Now he’s back selling God on TV again, and last month started selling “Silver Solution” as a cure for Covid-19. Silver Solution “has been proven by the government that it has the ability to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on, including SARS and HIV,” his guest told Bakker’s viewers.  Four 4-ounce bottles could be yours, a message on the screen said, for just $80.Selling a fake “treatment” for the COVID-19 disease violates state and federal law. On Tuesday, the state of Missouri filed a lawsuit against Bakker and his production company to stop them from advertising or selling Silver Solution and related products as treatments for the coronavirus.
  • Oh yeah,  this helps a lot Arthur Caplan, a professsor of bioethics at NYU, told the New York Times that without “social interventions to incentivize and support isolation, we are doomed.” Irresponsible fear-mongering. Even with the worst case scenarios, this isn’t the Spanish Flu, the Black Plague or ebola. We aren’t “doomed.”

2. Enemy of the People update. This gets its own section.  In this kind of a situation, the need for not only accurate information, but accurate in formation delivered from sources that are both trustworthy and trusted, is crucial. Thanks to the near complete politicization of the news media, there is literally no way (except via  blind faith that is, based on the news media’s performance, not merely unjustified but absurd) for a citizen to to know what motives are guiding the content and tone of news reports in evolving the epidemic. For example, here’s one usually level-headed conservative blogger’s analysis:

Yes, coronavirus is a pandemic because it’s everywhere in the world. That doesn’t mean it’s going to wipe out half the earth’s population. The media, however, is selling the flu as if it is a Black Death. Worse, it’s not just doing this because of the “if it bleeds it leads” principle in media. The people in the media are doing this specifically to attack Trump.

It’s late, so I’m not going to bother citing articles. You’ve seen it for yourself and you can easily confirm that the media attacks every single thing Trump has done. He’s racist, he’s paranoid, he’s lazy, he’s trying to hide things, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s making political calculations, he’s firing important people, he’s not listening to the people around him. This is Trump’s Hurricane Katrina. PEOPLE WILL DIE!!

That is not reporting; it’s propaganda, and it’s done with a single aim: To keep Trump from being reelected.

The side effect of the media’s political calculation is that it’s destroying the American economy and the world economy. I’m fortunate enough that I can ride out the stock market roller coaster. Many are not so lucky. They are seeing their retirement funds, the ones they wanted to use in six months, being destroyed in real-time. Also, those that are buying into the panic are selling out for pennies on the dollar and may never recover from that.

Businesses are going to go bankrupt and people will lose their jobs — and this is exactly what the media wants. Trump’s strength is the economy so the media will destroy the economy to undercut Trump. This is a declaration of war against the well-being of the American people and there really is only one word for it: EVIL.

I’ve long been disgusted by the media but watching the game-playing with coronavirus has raised my disgust to the same level I feel for mass murderers. Left-wing journalists (which means most of America’s journalists) are committing mass economic murder against the American people. What kind of sick, disgusting, morally-indecent people do that kind of thing? And they’re doing it in the service of Joe Biden! They are destroying the American economy so that Joe Biden — senile, corrupt, perverted, stupid Joe Biden — can be the president.

The point isn’t whether this is true or not. The point is that there is literally no way to know if it is true, or how true it is. All one can do is decide what you want to believe. Those progressives who sincerely—though I don’t comprehend how anyone can still honestly believe this—think that mainstream media bias is a myth will dismiss it as ridiculous—but then their perception is also suspect. We should have to make these calls. With a trustworthy media devoted to facts without propaganda, we would know that what we were getting wasn’t hype, wasn’t selectively edited, and wasn’t driven by an agenda.

3. Can we settle on a name for this damn thing, please? I don’t care what it is, but let’s settle on it. In the process, let’s also designate anyone who seriously argues that the name Wuhan Virus is racist for appropriate punishment, like being stuffed into a barrel filled with fat Lithuanian midgets.

In related news, Rep. Ocasio Cortez actually claimed that people were avoiding Chinese restaurants out of whatever-you-call-it virus concerns because of racism.

33 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/12/2020: Walking Through A Storm Edition

    • It’s called the Spanish flu because the Spanish press was one of the few that were free enough to report the outbreak, so the first large scale reporting of cases came from Spain, it likely started in the U.S.

      In regards to this corona virus having a name, the virus has a name, SARS-2-COV, and the disease it causes is COVID-19. Similar in naming to HIV and AIDS.

      • Interesting. I thought the Spanish Flu arrived in the US as doughboys came home from WW1.

        My great grandmother died from the Spanish Flu in late 1918.

        • The book The Great Influenza by John Barry provides a detailed history of the “Spanish Flu”. This strain of influenza probably originated in the Midwest. The first large outbreaks were among troops training for the war. The army was initially extremely lax in quarantine allowing a rapid spread from camp to camp throughout the US and ultimately to Europe. In April 1919 while he was negotiating the Treaty of Versailles, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a severe case of the flu. His staff noted rapid onset of significant impairment in his mental state; influenza may also attack the brain. Prior to becoming ill he had violently opposed Clemenceau’s extremely harsh terms for Germany. But within a short time after he became ill, he acceded to virtually all those demands. Many historians believe the severity of the terms of the Treaty played a significant role in the events that lead to WW II.

  1. Mathematicians and the media do not mix on almost any issue. Unless its Paul Krugman and his normative economics calculus crap machine, then they’re all ears.

    Bad news is the hype war over the coronavirus has already been lost. People are buying it. Just try to buy a bottle of hand sanitizer, anywhere.

    Let’s see how long the media can keep the coronavirus panic alive after the pandemic is long dead. Likely not until November, but, then again, we had Russia collusion for nearly three years.

  2. The official name is Novel Coronavirus of 2019. The official name is boring. Deathly boring.

    They initially used “coronavirus” because it sounds exotic. Occasionally, they called it the “novel coronavirus”. Then people learned that the common cold is a different type of coronavirus, so it sounded less scary.

    So they started using COVID-19; a science-y shorthand for the official name (so facially neutral), but it sounds scary because it one might think there are at least 18 other dangerous viruses.

    Several weeks ago, I indeed tried looking up COVID-18 and COVID-1, and found nothing; only after much digging did I learn “19” it is just the year the virus appeared. I faced palmed. If I was fooled, certainly many others were as well, and I find it hard to believe this isn’t intentional.

  3. According to Cincinnati, Ohio news station WLWT, the students were celebrating the cancellation of classes en masse. Probably not much better than rioting in protest, but not much different than my generation’s reaction 30 years ago to classes being cancelled due to the cold. I remember being in the dorms, complaining about the heartless administration forcing us to attend classes in the bitter cold, then rushing out to the bars as soon as the cancellation was announced. I also remember riot police responding to a post-rugby tournament party off-campus that drew a larger attendance than some small universities. Yes the UD “riot” was ugly, but not symptomatic of some special illness of the current generation.

    • Remarkably, November is still a very long way away in terms of American memory.

      If the Stock Market takes a very long time to recover, that’s what Americans will remember more than a disease (if the disease begins abating relatively soon). Though the media has done a bang up job setting the foundation for perpetuating the story long after things may already be on the recovery side.

  4. I keep hearing that uncertainty is driving the market down. Uncertainty of what? History tells us that no matter what temporary issue befalls us the market will continue to rise over time. That is a certainty.

    What we are witnessing is program trading based on short term market assesments. When you rely on algorythms to make decisions you will see the limitations of AI and why human reasoning cannot be replaced.

    If the SEC shut down the markets for two weeks preventing the profiteers who are making a killing selling short the markets will stabilize.

    • Well . . . I mean . . . of course they would. They would remain at the exact same levels for as long as the market was shut down . . . right?


      P.S. I know what you’re really trying to say, but nevertheless found this aspect of what you wrote amusing.

  5. And Gobert has an apology out for rating:

    “I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of concern and support over the last 24 hours. I have gone through so many emotions since learning of my diagnosis … mostly fear, anxiety, and embarrassment,” Gobert said in his post. “The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse.”
    He added, “I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus.”

    I am too lazy to try to rank the apology, but, at first blush, it does not look too bad.


  6. I wouldn’t be surprised if colloidal silver kills coronavirus and all other viruses and bacteria. However, so does bleach. Just because it kills the virus doesn’t mean it will act as a medicine to cure it. Don’t drink bleach.

    I hate politicians and ‘spokespeople’ because they tend to not give the public the information they need. All these precautions are to slow down the spread of the virus, not stop it. They will not stop it. We only have about 100,000 ICU and ventilator spots in the US. About 20% of coronavirus patients could need such a spot. If we all get sick at the same time, a lot of people will die. If we can spread out the timeframe, everyone who needs treatment can get it and the death rate will be very low. In a month or so, warmer weather will make transmission less effective and slow the spread even more. We are just buying the time we need to make sure the least number of people die from this. That is all. We are all making sacrifices so that OTHERS don’t die.

  7. 50,000 not 100,000 ventilators from the reports I’ve seen, but these are fully equipped, all bells and whistles that are sometimes the difference between life and death.

    I have no stats for heart lung machines, which are absolutely necessary in severe cases. A million beds in total.

    Around 20-30,000 are required for heart patients (mostly) and copd who will die without treatment, and another 10,000 who might recover without it, with 10,000 slack for dealing with pumonary influenza in winter.

    So 20,000 available at the cost of only a few hundred preventable deaths.

    US national test capacity is around 1,000 a day, plus 200 or so unaccredited private labs not usually used in medicine. Any port in a storm though.

    The ethics of triage are getting a real test in Italy, as they will in a month or sooner in the US.

    ” In an alarming development, Dr Nattino said younger patients were being affected, saying the ages of patients ranged from 46 to 83 with only a small number having important underlying conditions.

    He added: “The last days are showing a younger population involved as if the elderly and weaker part of the population crashed early and now younger patients, having exhausted their physiological reserves, come to overcrowded, overwhelmed hospitals with little resources left.”

    No one over 65, or with any risk factor at any age, is being assessed. Only a few of those assessed can be put on ventilators, most cannot, so the majority of severe cases join the “expectant” group.

    In parts of Lombardy, patients must be under 46 and also have 2 or more children to be guaranteed ventilation support if needed. For them, prognosis is generally good.

    So what can be done about it? Stay indoors. Telecommute. Wash hands frequently with soap and water – just this can double your chances, and these sre pretty good anyway, only 2 in 10 need hospital care and many of those could survive without it. Only half to a quarter of that 2 in 10 need intensive care. Many of those will die anyway, freeing up resources for others.

  8. We aren’t “doomed.”

    Viruses are survivable. An unreliable, biased media, a fervently misandrous cohort, a destructive restructuring of history, a stifled educational voice . . . now, that’s doomful.

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