April Fools Free Zone Ethics Warm-Up: Everything You Read Here Is Real, Unfortunately.

Happy Day Like Any Other Day.

Well, not “happy,” exactly…

I’m on record on Ethics Alarms as detesting April Fools Day, as well as regarding April Fools stunts by professionals, like lawyers and journalists, unethical though usually not sanctionable. It should be a children’s day, like Halloween, but adults are determined to co-opt all such days, ruining it for everybody.

1. I lost a good friend yesterday. It’s more than that really: the human race lost one of its finest representatives. His name was Dennis Nollette; he was a lawyer, a writer and a bon vivant, but most of he was one of those amazing people who made you feel good just by being around him. I knew him in laws school, where he was my room mate for a year; he also was a member of the casts of the three productions I staged when I was a student. Since graduation, I think I saw Dennis six times, never for long, but with him it seemed like the time melted away: he was always the same, always emitting his powerful positive energy, optimism, and love for those around him, and I always felt as close to him as ever.

And just like that, he’s gone. There was no warning; it all happened so fast. All I have now is an overwhelming feeling of loss, along with an acknowledgment of my duty to let as many people as possible know that he was here, that he made the world a better place by being here, and that those of us who remains should follow his example by making the best out of life, and encouraging others to do the same by our example. That was Dennis’s genius, and attention must be paid.

2. Maybe the Constitution IS a suicide pact…Justice Robert H. Jackson’s  famous line in his dissenting opinion in Terminiello v. Chicago, a 1949 free speech case, has come to mind many times in the past few weeks, as the news media and online sources have churned out some of the most irresponsible and outrageous essays in memory, many of them about how this period will “change America forever,” usually in undesirable ways.  90% of these screeds are nonsense and based on flawed reasoning. My current leader for the worst idea is this piece, by conservative gadfly Roger Simon: “Should We Postpone the Presidential Election One Year?”

It’s an incompetent question. Not only shouldn’t we, we can’t, and any suggestion from Republicans that we ought to even think about it would be instantly condemned as the attempted dictatorship by Donald Trump that Big Lie #3 has warned us about.  We also know that if the President did get an extra year, it would spent all of it defending himself against one impeachment attempt after another.

3. The media screed: always assume the worst. The site where I found this story snarked that it was another U.S. government cover-up. Quick now, why might the Pentagon tell military bases not to publicize how many Wuhan virus cases it has? Come on…guess.

4. Covidiots of the Day! A couple from Quebec, whose names are being withheld to keep angry mobs from hunting them down and feeding them to squirrels, were frightened of the pandemic. They decided to sell all their early possessions and decided to travel to the most remote locale they could find.  First they drove over 3000 miles, then caught a small plane to take them to the tiny Yukon community of Old Crow, population 250, a fly-in, self-governing community about 60 miles from  the Arctic Circle. Old Crow has asked people not to come there to keep the pandemic away. The Yukon government, meanwhile, had just declared a state of emergency requiring any visitors to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. This couple hadn’t done that.

They said the decided on Old Crow after one of them had a dream pointing them there.

These clueless fools were met at the airport by Old Crow’s emergency management coordinator and escorted to a small apartment at the local Co-op store, and  put them on the next flight out.

5. Reminds me of the “St Louis,” and I don’t like being reminded of the “St. Louis.” [About the “St. Louis“: “Voyage of the St. Louis…”]

What is the ethical way to deal with cruise ships with infected passengers that are desperate to dock somewhere?

Passengers on board the “Zaandam”want to get off at Florida, but Governor Ron DeSantis said the state’s health care resources are already stretched too thin to take on another ship’s  Wuhan Virus cases. The U.S. Coast Guard said yesterday that the decision would be passed off to Washington if Florida remains adamant.

“There are no great choices left. These are all tough outcomes,” Coast Guard Captain Jo-Ann Burdian told Broward County commissioners at an emergency meeting. Two  deaths on board the Zaandam have been blamed on the virus, and another nine people have tested positive.  450 guests and 602 crew members are currently on the Zaandam, including more than 190 who claim to be sick. Many are U.S. citizens, but far from all.  “We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources,” DeSantis told Fox News.

Meanwhile, Holland America President Orlando Ashford authored an opinion column in the South Florida Sun Sentinel begging officials and residents to let the passengers disembark from ships owned by his company. But although Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony called the situation a “humanitarian crisis,” he warned that allowing the Zaandam to dock would burden the local health care system and put residents at risk.

“This ship has been turned away from several countries already,” he said. “We are in some very, very critical circumstances where we as a county are going to have to determine are we willing to take on this responsibility.”

Another Carnival-owned ship with passengers who may be infected is now sailing toward Fort Lauderdale,  and scheduled to arrive in April. Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich urged officials to come up with a plan, saying,

“These people have been turned away from so many countries, one after the other. We are their last hope. What are we going to do? Let this ship go back out to sea and float around and let people die? I don’t think so.”

59 thoughts on “April Fools Free Zone Ethics Warm-Up: Everything You Read Here Is Real, Unfortunately.

  1. I don’t know how long this cruise was supposed to be, what was the port of embarkation, or where it was supposed to dock. But my experience with cruises is that are usually about 10-20 days in length, and my feeling that anyone who got on a cruise ship in the last month is an idiot.

    • Agreed, I was going to make the very same comment.
      I had to go back and look up the dates. The quarantine started Feb 6 and ended Feb 27. That’s 32 days ago. Every single person on that ship departed with the thought, “let’s go. It might kill me, but let’s go anyways.”
      Well, the worst has come to pass. They’re covidiots, every last one of them. To let them off WILL kill others. They made a bad choice, and they get to live or die with it.

      • Sorry, left out a very key part of the phrase:

        The quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Tokyo harbor started Feb 6 and ended Feb 27.

      • There was a flurry of deals online as people canceled cruises and flights, to fill those spaces. I saw people several places online debating the merits/dangers of taking deeply discounted cruises. Some cruises were marked down by 70%, people felt it was the chance of a lifetime. Flights to Europe, too. Yesterday a poll by NHK showed that 16% of the population are ‘not worried a out’ Covid. It’s that 16% that will sink us…

  2. Ship needs to return to wherever it is flagged. Panama, Equador, wherever…responsibility of the Country that chose to flag it.

    This is my reply to the poll.

    • The financial bailout of the cruise industry can come from the flag country too. The US government should only be bailing out those that sail under our flag. The flags of convenience come at a cost savings; but you shouldn’t get something for free. Let those countries that have been collecting fees from the ship owners for decades while providing nothing in return can pay now.

      Don’t like it? Fly the flag of a country like the US, UK, Japan or other country that provides something meaningful beyond a cheap registration next time.

  3. It reminds me exactly of the St. Louis.

    There are American citizens aboard. Foolish American citizens, but citizens nonetheless. They should be allowed to disembark. I can’t imagine letting them off the ship without quarantining and treating the other passengers. What would we want to do if we were stuck on a ship with a virus running amok and nowhere to port?

    • What would we want to do if we lived in a county who’s medical resources were stretched thin and a cruise cruise of hundreds and hundreds of idiots wanted us to take responsibility for their medical treatment?

      Florida is pretty arguably the highest risk state when it comes to the Wuhan Virus. It’s a large mobile population with a huge percentage of elderly citizens. If Florida wants to spend it’s limited resources on it’s own citizens and limit opportunities for that virus to run rampant across “the old folks at home” (it’s literally the state song) then that is both ethical and sensible. There are many lower risk states and ports across the gulf and east coast. Alabama in particular is a good choice – I just checked the CDC map and it has less than 1000 cases whereas Florida is already over 500 and on track to climb into the the top three spots.

    • A.M.,

      I think that is reasonable. However, I would add that each US citizen who willingly and willfully boarded a cruise liner after February 6, 2020, should be entitled to one free full frontal lobotomy.

  4. Possibly the best choice is to send doctors and medical equipment to the ship and treat everyone there. It would not be that hard to set up a small hospital there.

    Better to have the whole ship for entertainment than return to a small apartment.

    • No. Cruise ships are breeding grounds for all kinds of vicious diseases. Let US citizens get off in Miami or wherever, lobotomize them and quarantine them for 6 years. I guess idiots gotta idiot.


  5. Why were they on a cruise ship in the middle of a worldwide pandemic? If Florida’s medical facilities are at the breaking point already, they have no supplies and medical personnel to spare. Does Florida have to bear the burden of every ill-advised cruise ship in the world?

    My solution: Let it go to whatever country it is registered in and let that country deal with it. Of the Carnival cruise ships, 18 are registered in Panama, six in the Bahamas, and 2 in Malta. It isn’t our ship, it isn’t our problem. If they want the US to take care of them in situations like this, they need to be flying the US flag. This is another case of the US being damaged by offshoring. Much like the fact that we can’t get medical supplies because we forced our companies overseas with an unfavorable business climate and a disdain for the American people, the cruise industry has gobbled up the money of American tourists while paying their registration fees to other countries. Let them go there. Their country of registry is responsible for them, not us. If US passengers have a problem with this, they shouldn’t be on foreign-flagged cruise lines.

  6. 5. Holy Cow. I’m pretty sure the St. Louis was turned away from Miami.

    Ft. Lauderdale and Broward County make millions in revenue and tax revenue off cruise ships and their passengers going in and out of Port Everglades and Ft. Lauderdale airport. So now they want to treat these cruise ship people like pariahs? Idiots.

  7. (3) Yesterday, I was told that my wife’s company is laying off nurses. Apparently, this is a nationwide phenomenon. This is why Trump is in a no-win situation. If he maintains ‘social distancing’, he will destroy the economy and our ability to fight the virus. If he tries to relax the rules, more will die.


    The media has set up an impossible goal for the President. They have used an estimate of 200,000 dead Americans as unacceptable. The US population is 327 million. To stop the virus, roughly 70% of the population needs to get infected and become immune or resistant (there is no vaccine, so this is how viruses get stopped, by herd-immunity). Now, the lowest death rate REPORTED is 0.7% from this virus. Some countries are at 8%.

    OK, here’s your math homework.
    Find the following:
    Two hundred thousand people is what percentage of 70% of the US?

    How many will die if we tie for the lowest death rate at 0.7%?

    How many will die if we have a more reasonable rate of 2%?

    The press has primed the public for the idea that 200,000 people dead is WAAAAY too many. What is going to happen next?

    • I have heard some sources say that Italy’s death rate is 11. I have a hard time believing it’s that high. Yes, the age of the population and the failure of the medical system can bring it higher, but I have doubt it’s really that high. The far more likely explanation is that the infection rate in Italy is many times higher than the confirmed cases.

    • When in doubt and trying to ruin Trump make sure your way too many number is 10 times too low considering what is required for your country to have acquired herd immunity. Voila! it’s a disaster and it’s Trump’s fault.

      • Answers: 200,000 people would be a 0.09% death rate. This is roughly the same as the flu at 0.1%. Without the flu vaccine, flu kills 0.2-0.3% of those infected.

        If we equalled the world-best 0.7% death rate, that would be 1.6 million dead.

        If we have a 2% death rate, it will be 4.6 million dead.

        People need to understand this is the grim possibility and that 200,000 people dead requires us to keep Covid19 to half or 1/3 of the flu lethality, which it clearly is not. This is an unrealistic expectation.

        • Isn’t the 100-200K number the goal (of sorts) set by the president & his team in last night’s press conference? What I’ve seen in the press is the reporting of models put out by the administration.

            • They need to be preparing people for something a little worse than that. If it is better, great, but getting people prepared for 200,000 when it may be over a million is going to turn out badly. It would be nice if we had some realistic data out of China so we could ACTUALLY get an idea of what is going to happen instead of accepting their word that only 3000 people died in all of China over 4 months.

  8. Re: ship

    Ship must be registered under some country, right? Likely a small tax haven… well, that country has an obligation to take the ship and its occupants. If the cruise lines are going to play that game they must follow the rules. If by chance the ship is registered in the US, well, whatever American port it makes it to (even if its healthcare system is overloaded) should take it.

    Protocols can be designed and implemented in a couple of days, even if comes down to “dock, order everyone to stay in their cabins, and carefully get everyone off as quarantine is confirmed healthy (or refused/taken to the hospital as appropriate)”.

  9. Where did the ship embark from? Isn’t that where it should return? If that place is Fort Lauderdale, then Fort Lauderdale is stuck with it. If that place isn’t Fort Lauderdale and isn’t willing to accept it, then it should be allowed to dock in the US somewhere. If there’s US port with appropriate docking facilities with a health system that’s currently less burdened than Fort Lauderdale, then it should be directed to that other port; otherwise, Fort Lauderdale is still stuck with it. Sick people who need hospitalization should be disembarked and sent to a real hospital. It surely isn’t practical to establish a mini-hospital on board and staff it with doctors and nurses. People not requiring hospitalization should remain aboard under quarantine.

  10. I’m puzzled by your comparison of the Zaandam with the St. Louis. The Saint Louis was allowed to sail from Germany with it’s cargo of largely Jewish passengers as a cynical attempt by the Nazis to embarrass the USA over it’s strict immigration law. As we know, the ship was prevented from disembarking passengers except for a few that were allowed into Cuba.. Most of the passengers were healthy and were eventually allowed to disembark in Western European counties.

    • Area of comparison passengers facing a form of personal disaster seeking refuge in the US and being denied. How and why the situation came about is irrelevant to the comparison. The ethics issue is compassion.

      • I think the only real parallel between the St. Louis and the Zaandam is the boat.

        Comparing Jews fleeing persecution being turned away from ports on the dual basis of political gamesmanship and ethnic prejudice to idiots who wanted to go on a cruise during a pandemic having their plague ship turned away is borderline offensive.

        • You’re just being willfully obstinate, then.

          I didn’t say it was an exact parallel, or that it was even a useful parallel. I said the situation reminded me of the “St. Louis,” which is an ugly story. Since many other people have made the same connection, there is an obvious reason. People are not saying, “Gee, this reminds me of “The Lusitania,” or “the Titanic,” or the Boston Garden Swan Boats, or “The Wreck of the Hesperus.” They are reminded of the “St. Louis.” What a coinkydink!!! Now, why would that be? Hmmm…a real puzzler! Do you think it might be that in both cases, a ship full of people who desperately beg authorities to allow them to be taken ashore because they have reason to believe that they might DIE if they don’t and who regard the United States as the nation most likely to do something about their plight because of its alleges values, is told, “Screw you, we have our own problems”? Might that be it, perhaps?

          I noted in an earlier post about the film “Ship of Fools” that many people assumed that the book and the film referred to the “St. Louis.” Yet there are no substantive comparisons there at all, except the period. The Ship in the movie was not foiled from embarking. It was not primarily a story about Jews, and none of the passengers were facing death, that they knew of. The dramatic situation wasn’t nearky the same. In the case of a cruise ship full of people who feel they are doomed if they don’t get off at the US port, there is a material parallel.

          Hmm…just for teh hell of it, let’s check and see if anyone else made this weird and offensive comparison for no good reason whatsoever. I’m typing in “St Louis”, cruise ship. I have no idea what will come up. I did not do this before writing teh above, or the post. Let’s see…WHAT’S THIS????

          Miramar Resident Draws Parallel Between Zaandam Situation To That Of SS St. Louis During WWII

          Yesterday, Kolber and his wife, who are healthy, were transferred from the Zaandam to the Rotterdam and they’re hoping to return to South Florida, despite protestations from Gov. Ron DeSantis and wavering feelings from other leaders.

          “I do know this is a very serious thing but I think this is getting out of hand,” Kolber told CBS4 News.

          Kolber said allowing the ships to dock at Port Everglades is the right thing to do. In fact, he drew a parallel between this situation and the situation more than 80 years ago when American leaders refused to allow the SS St. Louis to dock in the U.S. That ship carried Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany and historians believe a number wound up in German hands and were killed.

          “I’m Jewish,” Kolber said. “I remember the St. Louis. I was brought up reading about it. I never thought I would be put in the same position.”

          AMAZING!!! That’s “Believe it or Not” stuff, like the two men with the same name and with wives named Lucille who never met and had pugs as pets and recited “Evangeline” in Esperanto to amuse guests! TWO people, that passenger and me, being reminded of th “St. Louis” for NO reason except that they are both ships! Uncanny!

          • I think you’re getting push back from the St Louis observation because it’s a hyperbolic bridge too far. In the context of the argument, associating the two, even at such a loose level as ‘”it reminds me”, would reasonably be read as implying that the ethical failure of the St Louis is whats happening in Miami with this cruise ship. It might not be what you intended buuuut re-reading the section… it looks to me like that was the intended message.

              • I don’t think being a Jew per se gives any more or less insight to this, just like I don’t think Bernie Sander’s positions on the middle east benefit from his being a Jew. Two people having the same brain fart doesn’t make them right.

                • Weak. Your exact quote was that there was no similarity other than the two being boats. You also said the comparison was “offensive,” presumably because it somehow minimimized the Holocaust. The fact that an elderly Jewish man made the same connection suggest that that’s nonsense, and the fact that the example I found too me seconds suggests that there were a lot more than tow such “brain farts.”

                  I would suggest that you just admit that your characterization was wrong.

                  • That was the hyperbole. Of course there are more comparables than that! I said in the same post that both boats were being turned away.

                    But every possible material comparison suffers from being thought of. Who the people are. Why they’re on the boat. Where the boats came from. Where the boats were going. Why they were turned away. The consequences of accepting the ships. Nothing is the same except the garnishes. And if you, and some elderly Jewish guy, are being distracted by the garnishes, that’s on you.

                    • Here’s a question:

                      Last Summer, a foot convoy of immigrants fleeing various South American shitholes trod through Mexico, expecting to bum rush the American border. That foot convoy probably has more meaningful comparibles to the St. Louis than the Zaandam does, but it was still different enough that turning it away, if it had even actually made it to the border, would have been the right thing to do.

                      Why didn’t you compare the convoy to the St. Louis?

          • This is like saying “Apple juice reminds me of gasoline because not only is it a liquid, but they’re also yellow and every now and again people drink them.” Sure, you can pick up a couple of comparables, but they’re bad, irrelevant, distracting comparables.

            When someone says “this reminds me of” to something so hyperbolicly stupid as a comparison between the St Louis, and the Zandaam, the correct thing to do is to call the comparison stupid, perhaps gently, and explain why it’s stupid, not to pat them on the head and say, “Why yes, Johnny, they *are* both yellow.” The problem I faced is that I thought you were smart enough to get there on your own.

      • Probably the issue was more about compassion versus immigration law. Ellis Island had been closed for a long time due to the decline in need for unskilled labor along with the Great Depression which put a high proportion of citizens and legal residents out of work. It wasn’t over when the Saint Louis made it’s voyage and Congress was in no mood to make changes in immigration law.

    • Until the Germans invaded those Western European countries and the refugees became persona non grata again – this time with no other place to which to run.

  11. #5- Holland America is a major customer of Port Everglades; Zaandam was christened there.The Zaandam was on a 31 day cruise, originally scheduled to arrive at Port Everglades on April 7. That means it sailed around March 7 (depending on exactly how they counted cruise “days”). That following week is about when the potential scope of the Wuhan virus really started to register in the travel industry. I know; we were scheduled to start an Ecuador/Galapagos tour on March 16, and it was not cancelled until March 13. With few actual virus cases only days before, Ecuador closed their borders on March 15. Travel-related boards had only just started to heat up with anecdotal stories of stranded travelers late that week. The Princess problem was largely viewed as a unique Asian-related situation before that.

    The authorities in Florida are well aware of the cruise ship schedules for their ports long in advance of any dockings. If they didn’t realize the potential severity of things and notify cruise companies early on to alter any plans to dock there, how should individual travelers be expected to have been more prescient?

    Take care of it, or make reasonable arrangements to do so.


  12. What port did it depart from? Some port somewhere under someone’s jurisdiction let this ship board and depart well into the beginning of the explosions of this pandemic. There’s no way this ship departed *before* any of the other cruise ship fiascos.

    The ship should return to THAT port, and Carnival should help foot the bill of medical expenses.

  13. I do think we have to balance our compassion with pragmatism. And the nearest, ‘richest port’ does not mean it’s the port’s responsibility to clean up the cruise ship’s lack of planning.

    The cruise ship companies’ have little claim on limited resources when they don’t pay as much into the system and probably omit so many pesky regulations for safety. And if Florida is a harder hit state, adding thousands of sick or incubating typhoid marys is problematic. And I doubt the flag countries have the facilities either, the US just has more capacity. (Strangely, this is more like illegal immigration than many on the left would like to admit: outsiders want to come for care&survival, regardless if there is capacity or extra risk to people already here)

    And many on these ships are citizens and would certainly rate assistance if they’d been hanging out in a foreign-owned hotel. And, it would be cruel to turn them away until they become a floating charnel house. How will we or our grandchildren look back at the pragmatic decision, removing even a slim chance to none. Those ships just are not designed for long term feeding and getting resupplied with our strained infrastructure will be rising issue if they cannot dock.

    We cannot do nothing, but the Florida officials have a greater responsibility to their citizens on land than the tiny ship populations. I think not letting them dock, but sending aid and peeling the tested healthy off slowly or the most critical to a quarantine hospital or something is a plausible answer. I’m sorry for the people trapped on board, but that is why there is travel insurance. Ignoring risks does not make it go away.

  14. The Zaandam cruise originated in Buenos Aires on March 7th, oddly on the same day the first virus death in all of South America was reported (which just happened to be in Buenos Aires). The first U.S. death was only announced on March 1st, in Washington state. Before that, the ship had been doing its Antarctic cruise season. Here’s its 2020 itinerary: http://crew-center.com/sites/default/files/ms_zaandam_cruise_ship_itineraries_2020-2021.pdf It was scheduled to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale on April 7th, but started getting turned away from ports partway through its cruise.

    A lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here. It was just about the latter part of the week of March 8th when people really started to understand and get concerned about, and react to, the acceleration and spread of the virus in the Americas (see my other comment above).

    Let’s not emulate the anti-Trump press and fall into the same sort of 20-20 hindsight criticism and condemnation game on this issue..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.