Monday Morning Ethics, 3/30/2020: As Another Fun Week Looms…

Yes, I’ve been thinking about this episode (“The Shinning”) of “The Simpsons” a lot lately…

Of course, in my case, I’m writing on the walls, “No baseball, no seminars make Jack Go Crazy!”

1. And speaking of people going crazy: the various anti-gun mayors and governors who are arguing that gun stores are “non-essential” are displaying their irrational Second Amendment phobia, much like Ohio and Texas attempting to prohibit abortions as “non-essential” surgery. The ability to self-arm is more essential at times of social disruption than usual. Looting and attacks on homes are just around the corner as resources dwindle and people become desperate, and we already have plenty of evidence that irresponsible, anti-social and unstable members of the public are not as rare as we might wish. The comparisons of the Wuhan virus crisis to zombie scenarios (as in “World War Z”) are invitations to hysteria, but in one respect the analogy is apt. Guns are useful tools to have around in both situations.

2. Good. From CNN:

The Justice Department has started to probe a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of the sharp market downturn stemming from the spread of coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the matter. The inquiry, which is still in its early stages and being done in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has so far included outreach from the FBI to at least one lawmaker, Sen. Richard Burr, seeking information about the trades, according to one of the sources. Public scrutiny of the lawmakers’ market activity has centered on whether members of Congress sought to profit from the information they obtained in non-public briefings about the virus epidemic.

And if this causes the Republicans to lose control of the Senate, they deserve it. Burr, in particular, should resign now. He should not be allowed to run for re-election.

3. I would think that this is a slippery slope we don’t want to get on…

What’s this? Well, in defiance of Prime Minister Boris Johnson ban on UK residents leaving their homes as part of Great Britain’s  the anti-Wuhan virus measures, tourists kept coming to a picturesque former limestone quarry in Harpur Hill nicknamed the “Blue Lagoon.” So local police dyed it black.

See, if Florida officials had been this creative and poured sludge on the beaches, it would have had all those Spring Breakers to worry about. If there’s an attraction that promotes irresponsible conduct, just ruin the qualities that made it attractive! It’s like throwing acid in the face of your spouse’s comely mistress.

4. But not fish tank cleaner: Last night, the Food and Drug Administration issued authorization for emergency use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, drugs often used to treat malaria, in treatment of cases of infection by the Whan virus.

The FDA will allow the drugs to be “donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible,” according to Politico.

Thus the President’s touting of hydroxychloroquine as a promising treatment was not fanciful or irresponsible, but accurate. Apologies will not be forthcoming from the many mainstream media sources that claimed that he had misled two idiots into drinking their fish tank cleaning solution.

5. Kennedy Center ethics. One of the non-pandemic-related provisions that Nancy Pelois was willing to insist upon even as delayed desperately-needed emergency funds going out to individuals and small businesses was a taxpayer bail-out of the super-elite
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which provides entertainment almost exclusively for the richest citizens in the Washington D.C. area. The Center should have received nothing: in D.C., as well as all over the country, small theaters like the one I used to run are facing ruin because of the virus, and they provide live theater that normal families can afford. Nevertheless, this was not a hill to die on for conservatives, so the monument to the Kennedy family received $25 million in taxpayer money to “cover operating expenses required to ensure the continuity of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and its affiliates, including for employee compensation and benefits, grants, contracts, payments for rent or utilities, fees for artists or performers,” according to the law’s provisions.

Hours after President Trump signed the bill, the Center informed members of its house orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, that they would be laid off. Nearly 100 musicians will no longer receive paychecks after April 3.


It is true that professional musicians, thank to a ruthless union, are shockingly expensive.  Nonetheless, that 25 million was a windfall, and the musicians on the NSA are among the most prominent of Kennedy Center Employees. Contrary to popular belief, however, arts organizations and those who run them are not compassionate people, or ethical in most cases. In a panel discussion, I once described the ethical culture of show business as being most similar to that of Columbian drug dealers.

I was not exaggerating.

6. Yeah, I know. Pelosi. I wasn’t going to mention Nancy Pelosi’s disgusting claim that President Trump is responsible for deaths from the Wuhan virus, but I suppose it’s so offensive that I have to.  Once the Speaker committed to an unconstitutional impeachment and tore up the State of the Union to show her contempt for the President, we already knew there were no depths to which she would not sink. Like so much else the Democrats have done and said, this viciousness is designed solely for the extreme audience of veteran Trump-Haters who would believe it if they were told that the President was a disguised Lizard Man from a distant planet.

Conservative pundit Rick Moran writes the obvious, or at least it should be:

The charge is incendiary, of course, but more than that it’s politically stupid. Very few voters — even many Trump opponents — are  going to blame him for killing people….The Democrats are getting truly desperate. Trump’s handling of the crisis is meeting with increasing approval from the public, despite Democrat’s efforts to derail him. They have to find a way to bring the president’s approval down. But if they think accusing Trump of murder is the way to do it, they are sadly mistaken.

Senator Lindsay Graham was less diplomatic:

“That’s the most shameful, disgusting statement by any politician in modern history,” he said on Fox Futures. “This is the same Speaker of the House who held up the bill in the Senate for days because she wanted same-day voting. She wanted carbon neutrality for the airlines. She is the one that held up the package in the Senate for days. … So it’s the most shameful, disgusting thing I have heard yet, and it needs to stop.”

Oh, it won’t stop. It will get worse as Democrats become more desperate. Meanwhile, I’m trying to think of a more shameful, disgusting statement by any politician. So far, the only candidate I can come up with is…Donald Trump.

19 thoughts on “Monday Morning Ethics, 3/30/2020: As Another Fun Week Looms…

    • This strain on the conservative side is remarkable, and not in a good way. I’ll be posting on it soon. The argument literally is that it’s rational and responsible to risk 2 million deaths to keep the economy strong. I was planning on using this piece in that post, in fact.

      • If you have COPD or asthma or lung cancer or a compromised immune system from you know what or you are an invalid in a nursing home and already on death’s door, hell yes, hide the hell out! Run away! But should everyone else drop everything and hide out with those people? I continue to think not. I continue to think this leadership overreaction and panic will go down as the largest public health and economic policy blunder in recent memory.

        • Well, no matter what eventuates, we do have this certainty to comfort all of us: There will be a Congressional investigation! Huzzah! Adam Schiff will be back on “Law and Order.” No, wait, he’ll be back leading a committee on TV!

          From Nan’s visit with Chuck Todd:

          Pelosi also hinted there would be an investigation into the administration’s handling of the pandemic once things go back to normal.

          “I don’t know what the scientists said to him,” Pelosi stated. “When did this president know about this, and what did he know? What did he know and when did he know it? That’s for an after-action review.”

          Frankly, I’m surprised she hasn’t already assembled a select committee and begun the investigation!

      • When investigating bias in columns on this topic, please consider this from Andrew Sullivan (He’s having a shitfit because he’s acutely asthmatic, which is fine. Hide out, Andrew. Don’t get on a plane, don’t go out):

        My nature is catastrophist. It’s pretty rooted in my psyche, and I can’t do much except be aware of it and the distortions it can create. I tend to see a situation and project a linear increase in whatever it’s signaling. So, yes, I panicked after 9/11 and went overboard in responding. I famously lost it when Obama screwed up his first debate against Romney. I may have worried too much about Trump’s instinctual authoritarianism and contempt for liberal democracy, without noticing better his utter incompetence and minuscule attention span. But when catastrophe actually does hit, I tend to be pretty much okay. My Irish flair for drama gets blocked by my English pragmatism. I put one foot in front of the other. I keep relatively calm and carry on. Once I’ve done my Cassandra act, and everyone else has noticed, I’m happy to chill.

        He’s also written a column calling this a plague (not that that’s alarmist or anything):

  1. They were using that phrasing during the impeachment hearings as well. It was annoying then, it’s even more so now.

    When Senator Ervin used that phrase it actually meant something. Now they use it as a guilt by word association tactic.

    • Thanks for filling in the blank on who came up with the phrase, DG. I wasn’t sure. But I was pretty sure it wasn’t a recent Yale Law School grad who was fired from a staff position at some point.

      • Oops. My mistake — the phrase was coined and became famous during the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973 and 1974.

        However, upon further research it was Senator Howard Baker who authored the phrase “What did the President know, and when did the President know it?”. Senator Sam Ervin was the chairman of the Senate select committee on Watergate.

        I recall watching those hearings pretty much all summer long — they were actually more interested in getting to the truth than in rushing to impeach. Nixon ended up resigning when he was finally persuaded that he basically had no support left in Congress, that there would be an overwhelming, bipartisan support for impeachment if he stayed.

        I still feel the sting of what seemed — and still seems — as a betrayal of all the support given Nixon during his presidency. How could he have been that sort of person as our president?

        • I watched them all summer babysitting Mrs. OB’s three to six month old infant daughter, and ultimately my adopted daughter. Richard Nixon was a very complex individual, to put it mildly.

          Howard Backer. Sam Ervin. Daniel Inoye. Sam Dash. Those names are no longer on the tip of my tongue, DG.

  2. 6. I shouldn’t even type this…but I’m going to. If I saw Rep. Pelosi walking on the street, I’d be very tempted to go out of my way to walk up to her and slap her…hard. I would get in serious trouble, and as a Christian, if flies in the face of everything I know I should (or in this case, shouldn’t) do. The President may be a jerk at times, and he may be a bully sometimes, but he’s done nothing to deserve what she’s given him, particularly regarding the WuFlu. Nancy Pelosi is a leader in her party. I believe she is supposed to set the standard of decorum and moderation for the rest of her caucus and, by extension, Democrats in general.

    She has, indeed, set a standard, but it’s a terrible one and she’s a disgrace. She has done more than enough to earn a slap across the mouth.

  3. Here is something that you can blog about.

    The nationalist government in Hungary passed a law Monday granting sweeping emergency powers that Prime Minister Viktor Orban says are necessary to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

    Those powers include sidelining parliament and giving Orban the power to rule by decree indefinitely. The law would punish those who spread false information about the pandemic with up to five years in prison.

    “Changing our lives is now unavoidable,” Orban told lawmakers last week. “Everyone has to leave their comfort zone. This law gives the government the power and means to defend Hungary.”

    During Monday’s vote, he said: “When this emergency ends, we will give back all powers, without exception.”

    But critics insist that Orban is using the pandemic to grab power. “An indefinite and uncontrolled state of emergency cannot guarantee that the basic principles of democracy will be observed,” Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric wrote to Orban on March 24.

    This could be a plot for a movie.

    • Michael

      “When this emergency ends, we will give back all powers, without exception.”

      I am beginning to believe this event is a dress rehearsal for government for a much more draconian event later on. One must test the limits of what the public is willing to endure from governmental decrees lest we see the people charging the statehouses with torches and pitchforks.

      Ok, enough of my melodrama. But the quote above is indicative of the risk of a different type of loss well after this virus disappears.

      I keep hearing that Trump ignores science or that he relies on his hunches and does not use data to make quality decisions. Well at 8 pm yesterday Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) issued the stay at home order or face a $5,000 fine and a year in jail. In that decree, there is absolutely no mention as to the scientific data that he used to trigger the order and thus there is no data to indicate when he would lift the order. It seems to me if we are to use data to drive all decisions that data must be understood by all in order to ensure that the people subject to the restrictions imposed will know if the government is abusing its governing powers. We the people cannot let them arbitrarily move the goal posts as they see fit.

      The terms of these orders should spell out specifically the triggers that cause regulatory restrictions and when those restrictions MUST be rescinded; these restrictions cannot be open ended and without definition. The only data that we hear is the 2.2 million deaths that could have occurred had nothing been done and Dr. Fauci’s equivocating statement that maybe as many as 200,000 might die – but don’t hold him to that.

      We cannot use infection growth rates as growth rates may be much higher initially with low absolute numbers. Going from 10 cases to 30 cases an increase of 20 cases is a 300% increase but going from 100 cases to 120 cases is only a 20% increase. Then the issue is where are the cases occurring? Should a county with few infections be subject to the same restrictions as a highly populated hot spot?

      Many in the media and some within our commentariat believe there has been an abysmal failure at the federal level to adequately plan for such a pandemic. My own Governor, Larry Hogan joined with Gretchen Whitmire to pen an op-ed this past weekend for the Washington Post pointing the finger at the Federal government because the states are now competing against one another for supplies. Their point is that the Feds should step in and exploit its monopsony power to eliminate the potentiality for competitive price increases because of the current increase in demand. Are they trying to get us to believe the federal government will get a better deal because they are the only buyer competing? Or, are they counting on the fact that, unlike states, it has virtually no limits on spending and that price is no object during this pandemic. Any lack of supplies they can blame on Trump’s lack of (fill in the blank).
      They know holding the line on prices by being a single buyer is highly unlikely with a product that is both price inelastic and voter inelastic. If they don’t they are idiots.

      No, Hogan and Whitmire are deflecting their own lack of planning at the state level. Maryland has chosen to prioritize spending countless resources through the AG’s office (Brian Frosh) to sue the Trump administration countless times. Apparently, ensuring that states can choose what federal laws it will honor takes a higher priority than ensuring that all health facilities have ready access to all the supplies it needs in a statewide emergency. In my opinion, the feds should be only a backstop to states in their quest to obtain resources The feds are not supposed supplant them – especially those states that have spent millions of state taxpayer dollars suing the current administration. We are not supposed to be a fair weather republic, that is one where the states demand full autonomy as sovereigns, using the courts to pursue those ends to themselves is good times but then demand that the federal government provide for their basic needs when the shit hits the fan.

      I don’t know which is worse VA Governor Northam’s 70 day stay at home demand or an open ended one like Governor Hogan’s. I am willing to comply with lawful orders but, when do lawful orders such as this end and the Constitutional protections we enjoy are restored? Without this question being answered to our general satisfaction we cannot dismiss the possibility that we are being prepared for a significant restructuring of our Constitutional system of government by our government.

      It may not be ethical to risk 2 million lives to save the economy. However, the question should be are we willing to risk 2 million lives to save our Constitution? I say it is.

  4. #1 Sadly, Jack, we have to accept the fact that guns – that is, guns of the power that are legal for ordinary citizens to purchase – are inadequate for the purpose of killing zombies. Come to think of it, since zombies are not, technically speaking, “alive” . . . .

    But, just in case it is that sort of apocalypse, the proper tool for zombie-extermination would be one capable of decapitation. … (?) to be found in any neighborhood store that sells machetes.

    • Beg to differ. Any of my 12 gauge shotguns with magnum buckshot loads are reliably capable of severing the cervical spine. Accompanying soft tissue damage is equally catastrophic.

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