Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/26/2020: Face Masks, Face-Saving, Faceplants, And Truths Too Awful To Face

1. Mask ethics:

See, when someone complains, she tells them they must be too close to her. Heck, why not decorate a mask with accident photos, abortion pics and fellatio snapshots?

  •  Michigan State Senator Dale Zorn, a Republican, was photographed wearing  a mask with a  Confederate flag design. I’d say the First Niggardly Principle applies: people are irrationally emotional about the flag, which is part of our history, still included in a couple of state flags, and a bold design, but there are less inflammatory design options. One has to wonder if someone deliberately displaying the flag is making a political statement, and since many of the possible statements are repulsive and divisive, it seems the ethical move is to choose another design. Like penises.

Zorn, however, not only wore the mask, he denied that it was  the Confederate flag, using a Clintonian argument ( it was more similar to the Kentucky or Tennessee flags, he said), then issued this apology:

So if he didn’t support what he knows the design represents to many people, why did he display it in a political forum?

  • I don’t know about you, but I’m thoroughly sick of conflicting information about the value of facemasks. This expert, for example, says they may make you sick.

Maybe that explains this confounding photo, from a recent flight into New York’s LaGuardia airport…

2. Trump’s face-saving tactic is a half-truth. In the wake of the latest fiasco, the President is going to limit the daily Wuhan virus press updates, and this is his explanation:

What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!

He’s right about the media, which is why the White House briefings were suspended before the pandemic. But the President is leaving out half the reason: he is over-exposed, not playing on a field he’s qualified to play on, and stumbles like the “Are we exploring using disinfectant as medicine?” followed by “I was just kidding!” are reckless self-inflicted wounds in a Presidential campaign. Trump needs less exposure, not more, and apparently someone persuaded him to cut back. Good.

I will never get used to the President of the United States using juvenile, hackneyed insults like “lamestream media.”

3. Oh, look! A sighting of Resistance Plan D! You know, I used to love Mike Barnacle when he was the Boston version of Mike Royko and wrote funny, often perceptive columns about local events and characters. Then he got fired for representing fake conversations and fictional people as real, and moved to New York. He ended up playing Ed McMahon to Morning Joe, which has to be degrading.  MSNBC dissolves the dignity, integrity and brains of those it employs, so yesterday Mike face-planted when he called for the removal of President Donald Trump under the 25th Amendment because of his ill-considered riff on disinfectants and ultraviolet light. Right Mike, making a dumb off-the-cuff statement on TV means the President is disabled. Good theory. It is nice to see that oldie-but-goodie, Plan D, being waved again.

Somebody please explain to Mike that his argument is exactly as dumb from a legal and Constitutional perspective as the President’s brainstorm was from a medical one. However, saying something this stupid  does show a disqualifying disability for a pundit, even on MSNBC.

4. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Can someone explain this other than by calling it outright propaganda and disinformation?

Maybe this was an tweet from two months ago that somehow got recycled. Someone in Lansing doesn’t admire the Governor’s  skills, as some in the legislature were trying to limit her emergency powers last week. Saturday Night Live joined in mocking her widely derided pandemic measures, which have made Whitmer the face of the frightening overreach being exercised by mayors and governors as “safety precautions.”

5. Now rolling out of the station, The Tara Reade-Joe Biden Ethics Train Wreck. Or maybe it’s the Joe Biden Nomination Ethics Train Wreck, which in my view started rolling as soon as a serial sexual harasser who was slowly shedding marbles announced his candidacy. The news media is on board, the Democratic Party has its own car, and Joe’s family is supplying snacks. It remains to be seen if #METOO and the party’s feminist base will debase themselves by riding along to the bitter end.

There is persuasive corroboration of Reade’s claims, we learned last week. Eventually, even the disgraceful mainstream news media won’t be able to bury the story. Meanwhile, The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to every Democratic Senator for comments regarding  Reade’s allegations that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 when she worked for him in his U.S. Senate office. After 24 hours, not one responded. That tells us that the party hasn’t been able to come up with a strategy or even talking points yet.

It’s ethics zugswang.

28 thoughts on “Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/26/2020: Face Masks, Face-Saving, Faceplants, And Truths Too Awful To Face

  1. Well, Politico obviously isn’t lying, they’re just taking social distancing *really* seriously. You can’t find someone to say something negative about Gretchen Whittmer, on the record, or off, if you never leave the studio and don’t ask anyone!

  2. Regarding 1.3:

    People getting sick from improper face mask use is my greatest fear. The whole point is to keep germs out, but unless people are careful, germs will stick to the outside, and possibly spread to the inside if not washed prior to reuse. If the mask is removed and not disposed or stored carefully, they may spread to other surfaces, and the inside of a reusable mask may touch those surfaces. And as the article states, people are likely to fiddle with the mask, potentially spreading germs over their face.

    Unless people are taking care to wash their masks after each use, or using a new disposable mask each time, they really seem more dangerous than not wearing them. (How many people would reuse a cloth handkerchief without washing it?)

    This kind of mandatory mask wearing seems an extreme overreach of government into people personal health decisions, made without the proper health and science information necessary to support the requirement. In Connecticut, the mask requirement is frustratingly vague, mandating use in situations where “social distancing is impossible”, but also waiving the mandate for those with health issues that preclude wearing the a mask. The requirement seems to be purposefully vague, yet risks being zealously enforced by social pressure.

    • “People getting sick from improper face mask use is my greatest fear. The whole point is to keep germs out”
      No, the masks are very poor at keeping germs out. The whole point of wearing masks is to reduce the chance of anyone who may have the virus from spreading it to other people.

  3. 4. If Michigan Governor Whitmer is trying out for a job, it can only be for Heinrich Himmler’s old job in Berlin. She’ll be crushed to discover that job no longer exists.

    She has proven herself a natural autocrat and idiot. (My boat and slip, for which I pay a pretty penny to the state, are currently being held hostage by her policies.) On second thought, maybe she is well aligned to be Biden’s running mate.

  4. 5. Personally, I can wait — forever — for the DNC’s talking points on the Tara Reade allegations. They will come in due course and they will be depressing as hell, and a lot worse than instructing every outlet to be sure to use “grappling.” I’ll bet Hill and Bill and the Ragin’ Cajun and Paul Begala and Donna Brazile have been hired at no small expense to develop a strategy.

  5. 2. Trump

    He’s right about the media, which is why the White House briefings were suspended before the pandemic. But the President is leaving out half the reason: he is over-exposed, not playing on a field he’s qualified to play on, and stumbles like the “Are we exploring using disinfectant as medicine?” followed by “I was just kidding” are reckless self-inflicted wounds in a Presidential campaign. Trump needs less exposure, not more, and apparently someone persuaded him to do this.

    Quite right. He still hasn’t figured out the less often people have to see/hear him, the better his approval ratings are. That’s because he’s a manifest narcissist, and can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t think he’s doing a great job, even when he’s treading all over his manhood in public.

    A tragic lack of self-awareness, to be sure, but perhaps he discovered it before doing more damage than he has time to repair. The problem is, he hasn’t figured out how to do that despite the solution being right in front of him — send out his surrogates to praise him, make prepared remarks, be seen but unavailable for more than single-sentence answers, tweet less, and act like a traditional leader rather than a mad, uncontrolled wrecking ball looking for something to destroy.

    Finally, get out of the way and let his enemies do what they want to do — destroy themselves and their credibility. Most Americans don’t require Trump to be on TV every day providing a roadmap to our collective asses — most of us can find ours without one — and then going off-script and scribbling all over it.

    3. Barnacle

    Perhaps Joe Biden isn’t the only one with cognitive issues.

    4. Whitmer

    The press wants to love her so bad because Trump insults her. Not just bias, but signature significance.

    5. Tara Reade-Joe Biden Ethics Train Wreck

    Eventually, even the disgraceful mainstream news media won’t be able to bury the story.

    Your certitude is impressive, but misguided. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I will be. I have no faith in the Left’s veracity or ability to overcome their “It’s okay for us but not for you” double-standards. And the media will continue faithfully debunking the claim until doomsday.

  6. 2. Here are The Ecommunist’s two top stories in tomorrow’s “morning briefing”:

    Apparently sulking over the churlish reaction to his unorthodox medical ideas, President Donald Trump cancelled daily press briefings. He complained on Twitter that the “Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately”. It is true the press greeted his explanation that his remarks about injecting disinfectant were “sarcastic” with incredulity.

    Not sulking but perhaps poorly, Mr Trump’s friend Kim Jong Un, dictator of North Korea, has not been seen for a fortnight, and even missed a big birthday party for his late grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15th. Amid the usual rumours that he has been sick or died, the South Korean government insisted he was alive and well.

    • Why doesn’t Kim Jong Un himself just release a video showing that he is alive and well? In fact all dictators should prerecord such videos for whenever they may be required. It would save needless speculation by foreign media and show that all is well until suddenly a new dictator appears.

  7. “After 24 hours, not one responded. That tells us that the party hasn’t been able to come up with a strategy”. I’m not so sure at all. I think silence and not giving so much as one molecule of oxygen to the fire IS the strategy. It is similar to the Ralph Northam/Justin Fairfax crisis for the party. Even faced with substantial credible evidence, and most of the Democrats running for president publicly piling on – hunkering down and riding it out paid off for Northam, Fairfax, and the party. And no one is even talking about it ten months later.

  8. Given Creepy Joe’s history of unwanted hugs and fondling of young woman, I really don’t think Bill, Hill, and Donna Brazil’s talking points will be able to derail the serious question of whether he should be the Democratic nominee. Bernie’s staffers and the far left are also extremely uncomfortable with Biden so I would say Biden is toast.

  9. This was a terrible week for typos on Ethics Alarms, for a variety of reasons that aren’t excuses. I just cleaned up this post several hours after I was supposed to.

    Mush thanks is due to Pennagain and Other Bill for their emails, as much as I hate getting them, as they mean more embarrassment.

  10. Here is an article that you might want to blog about.

    But what has been most glaringly obvious about these protests isn’t the far-right theatrics. It’s that almost everyone marching to end stay-at-home orders is white. And if they do return to “regular life” and refuse to distance themselves, their overt disregard will impact the population most vulnerable to the virus — black people.

    It’s easy to dismiss the anti-lockdown protests as business per usual in the land of right-wing Trumpism. But there is a much larger issue at play that existed long before President Donald Trump took office, and that he has learned to artfully exploit. It’s why it’s not surprising that in some areas, protesters waved Confederate flags or held signs that read, “Give me liberty or give me Covid-19.” The protests are symptomatic of the profound presence of whiteness and white supremacy in America.

    On the surface, the protests are about the contentious debate over reopening the economy during a pandemic, when more commerce risks more infections and the overwhelming of our hospital systems. Trump and other Republicans who have pushed to scrap lockdown orders sooner rather than later argue that doing so will prevent the country from going into economic collapse.

    “You’re going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression,” said Trump during a press conference on March 24, when he first began pushing the idea of reopening the economy, only one week into the lockdown. “You can’t just come in and say let’s close up the United States of America, the biggest, the most successful country in the world by far.”

    But if states open back up, it will come at whose expense? In the US, black Americans are dying of Covid-19 at disproportionate rates to other racial and ethnic groups. According to an American Public Media Research Lab report published this week, almost 50,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the country. Data for about three-fourths of those deaths reveals that the mortality rate for blacks is 2.7 times higher than for whites. Although blacks make up only 13 percent of the population, they represent 30 percent of Covid-19 patients in the US. The data continues to reveal which Americans face the greatest risk if the country is reopened.

  11. This is what the rest of the world sees as the US goes down with the chants of USA, USA. Just so it’s clear: this is an opinion piece from someone who isn’t a US citizen. A majority outside the US share it. Even conservatives.

    Here’s what Ireland’s respected (mainstream) political writer says.

    Irish Times
    April 25, 2020
    By Fintan O’Toole
    Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.
    However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.
    Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicentre of the pandemic.
    As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted … like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”
    It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.
    The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.
    If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.
    Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?
    It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.
    Abject surrender
    What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.
    Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order.
    In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students travelling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”.
    Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.”
    This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fuelled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
    It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.
    Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralysed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.
    The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.
    Fertile ground
    But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.
    There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.
    Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.
    And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realisation that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.
    That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show any more. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.
    And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element.
    As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.
    Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.

    It’s an opinion piece. The views in it obviously can’t be shared by everyone in every other nation. But they are an accurate representation of the view of the great majority of what used to be called “the West”. Whether the views themselves are accurate is another matter, but US diplomats are going to have to face the consequences.

    Just as no one is ever going to trust China again. If they ever did. Their diplomats have an even harder task.

    • Well, it’s also manifest crap. I’m surprised you would dignify it with reposting, Zoe. It’s ignorance—of America, of our values. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school.

      Got it. Signature significance for a jerk foreigner who has no standing to criticize anything here. Gee, where did that idea that liberty was more precious than life? Huh, I’m sure I heard that somewhere…Oh! I remember!

      “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775
      “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale ( 22 September 1776)
      “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.” Henry David Thoreau
      “People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take.” Emma Goldman
      “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”Thomas Paine

      And many more. Yes, we know many in Europe are eager to trade liberty for life—that’s how it ended up with so many kings, dictators, fascism and communism. The author’s comments on guns is especially ignorant. No, nobody gets to buy “assault weapons.” No, school children are not in danger from the Second Amendment. If this is typical of opinion abroad, then opinion abroad is even less respectable than I thought.

      What “suffering”? The claim that anything Trump has done has harmed a single citizen is pure libel, and would be if Trump was a private citizen. The hindsight bias is cheap, dishonest, and indefensible.

      The rest of the world doesn’t like individual rights, doesn’t like free speech, doesn’t like capitalism, doesn’t like liberty, doesn’t get American priorities and values. Got it. Great. Stay across the ocean then, and good luck. Fund your own international organizations.

      Of all the complaints about Trump, the “the world doesn’t respect us” is the most contrived, and the least consequential.

      • They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school.

        That is a great point.

        It is true, of course, that the 2nd Amendent makes it more difficult for the state to keep us safe from the street thug and the gangbanger.

        Of course, what we should all remember is that the 2nd Amendment is not alone in this. Other constitutional provisions place limits on the state to keep us safe from the street thug and the gangbanger.

        Consider the 4th Amendment. It restricts the ability of the police to find evidence of criminal wrongdoing. This means the street thug and the gangbanger may get away with their crimes, which enables murder.

        Not only that, the 4th Amendment is unique to the United States of America. Surely the police in Paris, Lagos, or Singapore do not worry about the 4th Amendment, probable cause, or the exclusionary rule. They just look for evidence. Why not follow the example of other countries?

        Or what about the 5th or 6th Amendments? How many more street thugs and gangbangers could we catch if we could make them testify against themselves?

        Or why even bother with trials? Why not trust the police to judge who is and is not guilty?

        How much more difficult would it be to commit murder- let alone get away with murder- if we let the police judge whether or not a street thug or gangbanger is guilty?

        Or what about the 14th amendment? What if there were certain racial demographics in the U.S. that commit murder at a significantly higher rate than the general population? Why should not the police focus on those demographics? Why should not lawmakers place extra restrictions on the liberties of people in those crime-prone demographics?

        Would it not be worth it if it prevented one murder?

        Why do we need civil rights at all, given how they tie the hands of the state?

      • Is your freedom more important than others’ lives though?

        A nation of millions of armed Mary Mallons, and many more millions condemned to share their country with them during a Pandemic. Because what alternative do they have?

        Live Free or Die is one thing. Live Free and Die another. Live Free and Kill yet another, and that’s the issue.

        • Preserving a free society is worth MY life. That’s exactly the calculation my father made when he enlisted in the British Commandos before the US entered World War II. At some point, the decision that preserving a democratic society, which includes preserving a functioning economy, must put lives at risk is inevitable. I’ve been trying to figure out how to handle that meta ethics conflict for a week now. Working on it…

            • And when you’ve worked out a solution – please tell me.

              Consider the Colonial Marines who burnt the White House in the war of 1812. Fighting against their former owners. Who in turn were fighting for Liberty – including the Freedom to own slaves.

              If you’ve ever read that turgid work “My Struggle” – it’s even less readable in the original German – it’s full of words about Freiheit – Freedom, the Freedom to take the Reich’s rightful position in the world, with the Living Room the Master Race was entitled to as a matter of Right in the East.

              That can be solved by “your liberty to swing your arms ends at my nose”. But what happens when the arm swinger disagrees, and claims oppression?

              Now we’re into the Kantian Categorical Imperative, and similar theories of Moral Philosophy. The Golden Rule. In the weak form, don’t do to others what you don’t want done to yourself.

              As I was discussing Rabbi Hillel’s words in the Babylonian Talmud, folio Shabbat 31a, in the context of fiduciary duties of accountants, (he is doing business law) ,he made the good point that it doesn’t work for Sado-Masochists.

  12. (2) Zorn is an idiot and a liar. He could have a least made it a funny lie “It was actually an old Georgia flag I bought on vacation years ago. I meant to fold it so you couldn’t see the pattern”.

    He should have said “I will not apologize. I wore that mask because I am in rebellion against the unconstitutional acts of our authoritarian governor. I will continue to wear this until she recinds her imperial edicts and stops punishing the Michigan people for protesting her unconstitutional actions.”

  13. Another odd piece about the Reade case is that the August 11th, 1993 episode of Larry King Live has disappeared from the Google Play Store. As of a few hours ago, it’s the only episode missing that doesn’t fall on a Monday. All episodes after the August 10th episode have also been renumbered.

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