Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/27/2020: It’s Come To This…

…I have to rely on cute Jack Russell Terrier videos to keep me from heading to the bridge…

1.  No, guys, it’s not unethical to retract a bad law. SCOTUS Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr, Thomas and Gorsuch were annoyed that the Supreme Court refused to consider the Constitutionality of a New York anti-gun law after the state not only repealed the law, but passed a law preventing a similar law from being passed again. The Supreme Court today dismissed a major gun rights case that Second Amendment activists had hoped would clarify the right to bear arms. The decision dismissing the case was unsigned, but the dissent was signed, so we also know who made up the majority.   “By incorrectly dismissing this case as moot, the court permits our docket to be manipulated in a way that should not be countenanced,” Alito et al. hurrumphed. The law’s removal rendered the case moot and denied the Court an opportunity to explore whether there is a right to carry a gun outside the home.

I’d say that when the prospect of being slammed by the Court makes a state back down from an overreaching law, that’s a win. Stop complaining.

2. Hat tip to WordPress. I noted over the weekend that I suddenly could not embed videos. When I contacted WordPress, as I have found before, I was in an online chat with a live staffer within minutes. He or she quickly solved my problem( at least temporarily; the problem was that I’m an idiot). My life would be so much happier if more tech companies (and communications companies) were this easy to deal with, and there is no good reason why they cannot be.

3.  From the Ethics Alarms nepotism files: New York city Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that his wife, Chirlane McCray, will co-chair a Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity as the city plans its eventual reopening. This is the second go-round for the city’s First Couple on the nepotism carousel. Earlier, he installed his wifeas the executive director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, a nonprofit foundation. She didn’t exactly do a great job, either.

“Chirlane doesn’t have an impressive track record running task forces or agencies,” said Councilman Joe Borelli (R-SI).“This is too serious an issue to use it as profile raiser.” added, referring to her potential political aspirations. McCray has been rumored to be looking at a run at the Brooklyn borough presidency. Nepotism is outlawed under the City Charter in Chapter 68 which forbids public servants using their positions “to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant or any person or firm associated with the public servant.” Maybe there are some loopholes the Mayor is exploiting—his wife won’t be paid—but this clearly breaches the spirit of the law if not the letter.

I blame President Trump. This is a perfect example of how the fish rots from the head down. Trump’s ostentatious use of his daughter and son in law in key White House positions, while not forbidden for a President, undermines the societal consensus against nepotism generally. [Pointer: Neil Dorr]

4. “WHO’s on first?” Last week, WHO published a scientific brief on “immunity passports,” the concept that governments should grant special documents to citizens who test positive for Wuhan virus antibodies, thus allowing them to move about freely. WHO’s assessment was that this was premature, since “no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans.” It’s tweet version, however, said only: “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from #COVID19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”

Did most reporters read the full document? No. Did they take into consideration the perils of using Twitter to convey complex information? No. Did they leap to the most sensational interpretation possible, thus spreading anxiety and panic?

Of course they did.

Bloomberg News, for example, turned the tweet into a story with the headline “WHO Warns You May Catch Coronavirus More Than Once.,” and told readers,

Catching Covid-19 once may not protect you from getting it again, according to the World Health Organization, a finding that could jeopardize efforts to allow people to return to work after recovering from the virus.

As Reason correctly points out,

That’s just wrong. There is no “finding” to speak of here, just an absence of definitive proof that antibodies confer a degree of immunity. Many readers undoubtedly would come away from these statements with a level of anxiety—You can get it again! We’re doomed!—that isn’t merited.

WHO eventually deleted the tweet.

Reason concludes, “From parroting the Chinese communist government’s lies about COVID-19 to wrongly warning people against wearing masks, the WHO has badly mishandled its communications about the pandemic. The organization really needs to get its act together.”

Too late.


12 thoughts on “Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/27/2020: It’s Come To This…

  1. It is easy to see their bias here. The press’s take on this announcement is “We may be able to keep people in lockdown forever, there is no proof you gain immunity from it. You can never go back to normal.” instead of “The government may require you to have special ‘papers’ to travel, work, or shop”. Imagine that they all went to the same conclusion when you could go either way. What are the odds of flipping a coin and getting heads 25 times in a row?

    1 in 2^25 or 1 in 33 million, roughly.

  2. 3. When I saw a piece about this new “task force” “tasked” with addressing the inequities in the numbers of white verses black people dying from the Cornonavirus in NYC, I went all Babylon Bee and assumed the task force would be going around to hospitals and nursing homes and pulling life support from ill white people to “address” this particular inequity.

  3. “I’d say that when the prospect of being slammed by the Court makes a state back down from an overreaching law, that’s a win.”

    It’s really more of a draw, isn’t it? If the state withdraws the law, then you’re just back to where you were before, under threat that the state, when it judges circumstances to be more favorable, will just bring the law back. And they will bring it back for another try later.

    Had the case been adjudicated (and most likely the ruling would have gone against the state), then there would be a legal ruling stating that the law was unconstitutional, thus significantly raising the bar for future laws of its ilk nationwide. This result isn’t a loss for 2nd amendment advocates, but it’s not a win, either.

      • #1: Well, that’s a bit of improvement in one jurisdiction, but it’s a win in about the same way as Lucy promising to not move the football next time is a win for Charlie Brown. Until an adult steps in and someone gets a spanking, nothing fundamental changes, and other bad actors, including NYC, continue with similar antics. The SC should have been that adult (or, to paraphrase Animal House, “that foot”.) It took an act of congress to partially quash unfounded lawsuits being used by some individuals and organizations, with the help of sympathetic venues, as a tactic to destroy the firearms industry. The same lot are still trying to cook up end runs around that law; they don’t stop until they’re stepped on HARD (maybe I should have just gone with the Animal House metaphor to start with).

        #2:/b> What did you do? Is there an old post we can use to try out links & pics? They haven’t been working consistently correctly for me recently, either.

  4. 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.

  5. “I blame President Trump.”

    You can fault him, but I don’t think that you can blame him for something De Blasio had already done before Trump ever ran for office.

    Bears are fun, too. Try some bear videos.

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