I’m still sane!
1. Cultural literacy note. Ann Althouse, holed up and desperate for non-virus topics (as are we all), has been reduced to reading Woody Allen’s newly published memoirs and commenting on them. Today, reviewing a section where Allen said that his “literary heroes” growing up did not include Julian Sorrel, but did include comic book super-heroes like Hawkman and Submariner, among others. Ann, who’s a bit younger than me, openly admits that while she knows Julian Sorrel (“The Red and the Black”–yechhh). but never heard of Hawkman or Submariner.
Is that a girl thing? Admittedly, those are two relatively minor heroes in the D.C. and Marvel comic book universes, but Ann has had a long time to catch up. It reminds me that one’s perspective on so many matters—everything?—is affected by the shape of the culture one perceives, and holes, even little ones, make a difference. Althouse frequently reveals that she is weak on some popular culture (especially movies and TV). She’s a commentator on the American scene, and people are influenced by her opinions. Nobody can know everything, but the fewer holes, the better.
2. Krazy Kollege Ethics...
- Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, “welcomed” students returning from spring break and initially told his faculty to return to campus unless they had a valid medical reason to stay away. He relented somewhat, and they will now teach online rather than in front of classes, but many professors remain on campus. This situation defies Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s order for nonessential businesses to shut down.
At Slate, legal commentator John Culhane thinks Falwell is asking for lawsuits:
Universities can be liable for failing to safeguard the health and safety of their students and for coercing their employees (faculty and staff) to assume needless risks… there’s no sound reason for a university to defy sensible public health directives by encouraging faculty and students to return to campus. (This is especially true since this return is taking place right after spring break, when it’s a sure thing that at least some students were congregating in massive, unsafe numbers.) Such defiance of public health messaging, as well as the contrary decisions of seemingly all other institutions of higher learning, could add up to compelling evidence of negligent conduct—failing to act like a reasonable person under the circumstances. And a jury that got its hands on such a case might even find that Falwell’s conduct went beyond negligence and was reckless—meaning that it could find that he consciously disregarded a known risk. If so, Falwell and Liberty University could be saddled with punitive damages too, because Virginia, like most states, allows punitive damages for cases involving reckless conduct (but not “mere” negligence). Other employers who present their workers with such choices could be similarly called to account.
- Straight into the “What were they thinking?” files goes the strange case of Dean Allyson Green at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In response to numerous student demands for a partial tuition refund because they have been evicted from campus, the Dean sent an email saying such a rebate would be “challenging” (Translation: “We would rather keep your money”) along with a video of her dancing to REM’s “Losing My Religion.” This, as you might imagine, has not gone over well.
The dance video was, I think we can agree, whimsical but disrespectful, evasive, and wildly unprofessional, even for an art school dean. Perhaps we can also agree that colleges and universities that close their campuses and deliver online classes rather than live ones are absolutely ethically obligated to refund a significant portion of each student’s tuition, which was inflated anyway.
3. Of fish, fishing, and Mr. Limpet. I just saw an old trailer for Don Knotts’ regrettable movie, “The Incredible Mr. Limpet,” i n which a fish-obsessed nerd magically becomes an animated fish and assists the U.S. Navy in combat missions. (I bet Althouse never heard of the film.) I was impressed with a line in the promotion, which was unusually honest: “This is sure to be the best movie about a man who turns into a fish that you’ll see all year!”
How true. But I digress.
On March 23rd, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee issued orders prohibiting the state’s citizens from engaging in activities that involve social interaction and engaging in any activity outside the home that is not specifically excepted by the order, like shopping for groceries, travel for essential employment, and seeking emergency treatment. Citizens defying the order will face criminal prosecution.
Now the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, acting pursuant to the governor’s mandate, has banned all fishing activities, even those of solo fishermen in lonely boats.
Darren Smith, Jonathan Turley’s occasional weekend understudy on his blog and a Washington resident, perceptively opines,
The continued over-reach and over-reaction by the administrative state of Washington and its politicians could eventually result in a pushback effect by the public if these agencies do not learn to control their impulses to take away freedom and basic human needs from the public. Every few business days here has brought yet another greater restriction prosecuted against the public and it could result in people losing faith and defying or ignoring future proclamations that might actually be reasonable in scope. Taking extreme measures such as what Fish and Wildlife did is not helping anyone.
4. What’s wrong with this headline? Today’s Times:”Flawed Kits, Red Tape and Leadership Failures Blinded Nation To Threat.”
Hmmm…something seems to be missing. What could it be?
In response to the viral threat, President Trump issued the order banning travel from China on January 29. (For perspective, note that New York City mayor de Blasio urged his city to get out and go to movies and shows on March 10.) Former Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein’s Vox tweeted, ‘Is this going to be a deadly pandemic? No.” Lenny Bernstein at the Washington Post wrote on January 31, ‘|”Get a grippe , America. The flu is a much bigger threat than Coronavirus, for now.” Then the Post’s editors wrote, “Past epidemics prove fighting coronavirus with travel bans is a mistake.” Another op-ed was headlined, “How our brains make coronavirus seem scarier than it is.’” Three days later yet another op-ed explained to us “Why we should be wary of an aggressive government response to coronavirus.” It would lead to more stigmatization of marginalized populations, you see. Let’s get our priorities straight.
A few days before President Trump’s Oval Office address to the nation on the epidemic, CNN’s Anderson Cooper told his audience that “if you’re freaked out about the Coronavirus you should be more concerned about the flu.” After Trump’s address, CNN’s fake media ethics watch-dog Brian Stelter said, “Sean Hannity and Fox were going to celebrate the travel ban while evading the scourge spread within the US.”
An ethical, trustworthy, objective news source would include in its finger-pointing its own industry and colleagues, which downplayed the threat of the virus for weeks in order to, of course, bash President Trump, push Big Lie #4, and advance their biggest concern at the time, political correctness.
But this is the New York Times.