Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/20/20: Seven Items, Five Pandemic Related, Plus Boston Sports And New York City Schools

…feeling like the last living cell in a dead body…

1. I don’t know about you, but I’m just reaching out to random friends to see how they are doing. Some aren’t doing that well, but they appreciate the contact.

2. More of the name game: From a PR release from two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Gail Heriot and Peter N. Kirsanow…

The Commission makes the ill-advised suggestion that referring to COVID-19 with terms like “Chinese coronavirus” is somehow fueling “[t]his latest wave of xenophobic animosity toward Asian Americans.” It is common to refer to infectious diseases by their geographic origin. Examples include Asian flu, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Brazilian hemorrhagic fever, Ebola, German measles, Japanese encephalitis, Lyme disease, Marburg virus, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Pontiac fever, Rift Valley fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Spanish flu, Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever, and West Nile virus…It is counter-productive to hector the American people (or its leaders) about describing the COVID-19 as “Chinese” or as having originated in China. It did originate there. Ordinary Americans—of all races and ethnicities—who harbor no ill will toward anyone don’t like to have the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights imply that that they are fueling the flames of xenophobic animosity.   We can’t blame them. It is insulting.

Our colleagues on the Commission close their statement by writing under the current circumstances no American should be “ostracized solely because of their race or national origin.” That is certainly sensible enough. We would add that Americans should not be ostracized on account of false accusations that their conduct has been racist, xenophobic and hateful. The promiscuous use of those terms needs to stop.

That’s fine and well stated. My position is even more basic. I refuse to participate in mind-control based on the assertion that a factual statement is “racist,” or that someone is the cause of unethical conduct because others choose to behave unethically. Any more Alyssa Milano comments or complaints about Kung Flu jokes, and I’ll be calling the damn thing the Wuhan Virus from the Capital of the Hubai Province in That Big Asian Nation Called China That Endangered The Entire World By The  Dishonest, Paranoid Manner In Which It Withheld Crucial Information.

Back off.

Meanwhile, the country responsible for the pandemic  is still lying. That doesn’t mean anyone should beat up Chinese Americans, but I don’t care if the Communist regime’s feelings are hurt.

I’m pretty sure that virtually all Chinese-Americans would rather see institutions like Harvard cease their policies of discriminating against Asian-American applicants in favor of other, less qualified minorities applicants. But I could be wrong…

3. In related news, the execrable Paul Krugman calls the Wuhan virus outbreak the Trump Pandemic in his column today. That’s what the various denizens of the Time op-ed page call fair and informative.

4. And in more related news, Washington Post op-ed writer Michael Gerson, a former Bush speech-writer who joined the family’s vendetta against Trump after he unwisely insulted Jeb and George W. with undo gusto, issued this embarrassment: “Never have GOP votes against impeachment seemed more shortsighted.”

The thesis of the op-ed confirms what I  and many others have been pointing out for years now, that the efforts to impeach this President were not about actual impeachable conduct, but a pretense to justify undoing the 2016 election. It’s nice to have one’s analysis confirmed, but Gerson is allegedly an op-ed writer because he is a conservative, meaning that he believes the Constitution matters, and, you know, smart. But no smart pundit who wants to preserve the Constitution could write such corrosive foolishness as this:

“In nominating and electing Trump, Republicans were making the claim that presidential character matters for nothing. That only his policy views and judicial appointments really count in the end….By voting against impeachment for Trump’s abuse of power, they were also denying that presidential temperament and judgment should be given serious weight in our public life. They were saying, in effect, that a trivial leader was sufficient for a trivial time. Who cares about integrity, wisdom and public spirit when the stock market is rising and the economy is booming?”

I’ll leave Trump’s nomination alone, but in electing Trump, more than just Republicans were “making the claim” that they preferred Trump’s obvious character flaws to those of Hillary Clinton  that her party and her supporters denied and covered up, That was (and is) a reasonable decision.  Gerson is also encouraging historical ignorance, as he knows the aggrieved party in this calculation, the Democrats, championed exactly the fallacy he is condemning when they supported a proven con-artist and sexual predator for President (who, coincidentally, is the husband of the candidate voters rejected) with the cynical, characater denying slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

Worse, however, but satisfying, is Gerson’s damning admission that Senators were supposed to vote to remove the impeached President not because of the charges against him, but because they, and Gerson, disapproved of his “temperament and judgment.” If that becomes the standard, then any time a party has a majority in both Houses, it can and will impeach and remove a President who doesn’t do its bidding. Far from being short-sighted, the refusal of GOP Senators to vote with the Trump-haters was in the long-term interests of our democracy.  As the Post’s captive token conservative, Gerson is supposed to comprehend that, but Stockholm Sydrome is a terrible thing.

Meanwhile, the whole premise of his essay is that somehow the President could have handled the pandemic better. This is emerging as another Big Lie, #9 on the list.

I’ll add it over the weekend.

5. My legend as the Paper Good Altruist of Alexandria is growing. At the CVS just now I heard two senior women expressing dismay that the shelves were empty of paper towels, and they were completely out of this essential. So I went into my car and got them a big roll of Bounty from the package I had in the trunk.

6. I’m assembling a list of all the varieties of fake news that the news media and its enablers claim don’t exist. Here’s one: a Times headline today says, “New York’s Elite Schools Still Admit Few Black Students.” The story, however is about how only 30 black and Hispanic students scored high enough on their entrance tests to be admitted under the race-blind criteria. That’s not an admission problem, that’s a performance problem. The headline misleads regarding agency. That’s deceit.

7. Boston, hubris. Hubris, Boston.  Sports fans from my beloved home town of Boston have been mighty obnoxious in recent years with the success of their sports teams. Now the city is in shock: in a six month period, the Patriots flopped in the NFL play-offs, the Red Sox traded their best and most popular young player, Mookie Betts, for a package of frozen pirogies, a Jay Buhner baseball card  and an old Pat Boone album, Sox manager Alex Cora was fingered as the mastermind of the Houston Astros cheating scandal (and maybe a Red Sox sign-stealing plot as well) and summarily fired, Tom Brady abandoned the Pats for Tampa Bay, and yesterday it was announced that Chris Sale, the Red Sox pitching ace, had to have Tommy John surgery on his pitching arm and would miss this season half of the next.

There’s an ethics lesson in this.

27 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/20/20: Seven Items, Five Pandemic Related, Plus Boston Sports And New York City Schools

  1. Well, it looks like academia has learned the lessons of Mizzou well. In 2015-2016, protests at U of MO Columbia led to a virtual shutdown of the campus for months. Then, they just gave the students credit for the courses even though they actually only took half of them. No accreditation body raised any questions of this.

    Today, the schools are going to all-online instruction, as if you can just say that and it is done. Any idea how you can test people and make sure they are actually taking the test and not getting help? Unless you use a proctoring service, you can’t. So, how do you know what work the students have done? Now imagine lab courses. Students are supposed to get instruction on how to use expensive, essential equipment. Now, they will get credit for it even though they didn’t do it. Is med school working this way as well? As of just a few years ago, I knew some faculty who still had the department secretary type their syllabi for them. These same faculty are going to suddenly be teaching online instruction of 4-5 courses simultaneously at a higher quality than any online instruction ever seen before? Not hardly.

    I am beginning to think our elites have decided to use Coronavirus as an excuse to destroy our very society. Destroy education? Check. Ban the ability to protest the government? Check (no assembly of more than 10 people). Ban enforcement of the law? Check. Ban the second amendment? Check. (Entire states have shut down their NICS check system. No background check, no gun purchase. Ever wonder how any ‘reasonable’ person could object to background checks? Here it is.)

  2. Would you make the point that poor Italy — unprepared and totally ignorant (thanks to the government of China) — imported 10,000 Wuhan workers for their textile mills? This was inadvertent, to be sure, but the facts are clear, and the results catastrophic.

    Anyone with guts enough to read Tom Clancy’s “Executive Orders” will get a lesson on pandemic control. This was (partially) about Iran attacking the US with enhanced Ebola virus, so it won’t ever be made into a movie because it is so politically incorrect, but the steps taken by the US President in the novel are exponentially more severe than anything Trump has done.

    People are dying. And we take this opportunity to attack the President of the United States? Unbelievable.

    And those members of Congress who have profited from insider information and insider trading should be drawn and quartered. I may be wrong, but I do not think the Founders assumed that service in Congress would never become a career; rather, that individual citizens would serve their one or two terms and then go back to their regular lives. Unfortunately it hasn’t turned out that way: and the best source of long term income from relatively poorly-paid Senators and Congressmen has become dicey deals that outside the Capitol would be prosecuted. Concern for the common man, my ass. Self-aggrandizement — in many forms — is the name of the game.

    Tom Clancy — of “Hunt for Red October” fame — is indeed a conservative but worth a read. “Executive Orders” says more about the presidency and the ways to deal with pandemics than anything I’ve found so far. Clancy was kind of an ass, but a hell of a thinker and a superlative writer.

  3. #5 – I’ve not shopped CVS lately, but aren’t they well known for giving customers a week’s supply of TP with every purchase?

  4. Point 4
    Gersen will do to the Bush legacy what McCain and his daughter and Romney did to my assesment of my prior choices for president.

    Today, I would never vote for either McCain or Romney. They speak of issues of character. Good character is not a function of how one carries themselves in polite society. Good character is exemplified when someone harms you and you don’t look for ways to get even.

    That is the issue for most of the Trump haters. Trump did what they could not do and that pisses them off. I know Trump made a comment about McCain’s hero status. True heroes don’t get bent out of shape at such things unless they worked to cultivate their own hero status. When the masses see you as a hero what one person thinks is irrelevant.

    Romney has proved himself to be nothing more than a poseur. He has the classic good looks and perfect coiffure that make for great campaign posters but now that I have had a better opportunity to see him in action I now know he is more concerned about gaining favor of the in group – you know who they are, they are the ones always claiming to be on the right side of history.

    Gersen needs to be careful I still have a great deal of respect for the Bush family and hope it stays that way. However, if the Bush family or its surrogates begin undermining the current president because he made disparaging comments about Jeb during the campaign then they too will demonstrate the same poor character traits of McCain and Romney.

  5. Mr. Krugman is a bit late to the party. There’s already a disease named after the sitting President: Trump Derangement Syndrome. Symptoms include an irrational hatred of the color orange, sudden discoveries of racist rhetoric, whiplash 180 degree turns on opinions, and base name calling of anyone who disagrees with you. If you or a loved one is suspected to be suffering from TDS, please seek immediate help from a medical professional. Together we can overcome this pandemic from which we’ve been suffering for the past four years.

  6. This interesting thought just occurred to me: that for all his abundance of flaws, and even for his completely mistaken down-playing of this immensely serious crisis — he now is becoming a war-time president — this strange flawed man is rising to the occasion. In novels and such the narrative movement is that an unaware, flawed, unconscious protagonist is affected by *necessity* and a transformation takes place. The man you start with is not the man you end up with.

    As the specter of death looms and circles, how odd it is that there is a sort of world-awareness of frightening temporality and fragility. I watched Merkel of Germany recite her dire warning and can say that I was impressed.

    What I find interesting — I mean of the so many things one can find interesting — is to meditate on the sheer unexpectedness of the shifts on the world scene. First of course with the unlikely and *impossible* election of Donald Trump. And the unlikely and unexpected events that flowed (and flow…) from that. Everything was put in doubt. The course of things and the predicted paths were simply jarred. But then there was this sense of What is coming next?!? And the sense that something had to happen.

    But now look at what has happened! A world-scale event that will touch the entire globe and all people on the globe. But what does it mean? What is portended? What will result from it? Can it be seen, can it be known? I think the answer is *negative*. It remains, oddly enough, a shrouded mystery.

    I am especially interested in the sense of something coming from without: an outward influence exerted by someone or something else: in this case Fate/Providence.

    anagké: necessity
    Original Word: ἀνάγκη, ης, ἡ
    Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
    Transliteration: anagké
    Phonetic Spelling: (an-ang-kay’)
    Definition: necessity
    Usage: necessity, constraint, compulsion; there is need to; force, violence.
    HELPS Word-studies
    318 anágkē (perhaps cognate with 43 /agkálē, “arm,” which is derived from angkos, “a bent/uplifted arm poised to meet a pressing need”) – necessity; a compelling need requiring immediate action, i.e. in a pressing situation.

    318 /anágkē (“a necessity”) calls for timely help, i.e. strong force needed to accomplish something compulsory (absolutely required). This kind of situation is typically brought on by great pain or distress (so Diod., LXX, Abbott-Smith).

    [“In classical Greek many words take their stem from anank-. The verb anankazō denotes the outward influence or pressure exerted by someone upon another. . . . At times there is implied in anankazō the idea of ‘force,’ thus it can even mean ‘to torture’ someone” (Liddell-Scott).]

  7. #5. These were two senior women who lived together? Sisters? How do you know? Perhaps they just met and commiserated at the Paper Section. In which case they will go to the nearest coffee shop and proceed to divide the roll sweetly, sheet by sheet … or stand in the parking lot, in the space where you and your car with its Trunk of Bounty had stood just a few moments before and scratch each others eyes out as they shred your gift to chad.

  8. The story, however is about how only 30 black and Hispanic students scored high enough on their entrance tests to be admitted under the race-blind criteria.

    This begs several questions.

    – Why did only thirty of them score high enough on entrance tests to be admitted?
    – How did they compare in testing to Slavs, Greeks, or Gaelics?
    – does this undermine the case for equal protection?

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