Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/9/2020: “If” And Silver Linings

Good Morning!

My father’s favorite poem, which I read at his funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery in 2010—-was it really that long ago?—is especially relevant and valuable now. Some of the woke-addled have “canceled” Rudyard Kipling because of his offenses against presentism (and because he ended “If” with female-excluding nouns). This is like cutting off your nose to spite your face, or perhaps lobotomizing yourself to spite your character. However you choose to describe it, not being able to channel “If” when all about you are losing their heads—like now—is a severe and unnecessary handicap.

1. “Forget it, Jake. It’s The Times.” Nobody at the Times protested, as far as we know, when the paper, over the weekend, ran a story titled, “Vote for Trump? These Republican Leaders Aren’t on the Bandwagon” that claimed, “Former President George W. Bush won’t support the re-election of Mr. Trump.”  The article attributed this revelation about George W. Bush’s intentions (and Jeb’s) to unnamed sources “familiar with their thinking.” This is the variety of fake news Ethics Alarms categorizes as Psychic News, based on mind-reading and nothing else. Speaking on behalf of Bush 43, a spokesman  told the Texas Tribune, “This is completely made up. He is retired from presidential politics and has not indicated how he will vote.” Ford reiterated this statement to the Times, indicating that the former president would stay out of the election and speak only on policy issues. Has The Times retracted or corrected its claim? Of course not.

I would personally be shocked if George or Jeb voted for Trump, given how much the Bush family hates him for his personal insults against them, but that doesn’t mean a newspaper can declare as fact that they won’t. Their other big scoops were that Colin Powell wouldn’t vote for Trump, against based on those who have read his mind, though we know he voted for Clinton in 2016 (he said so) and that Mitt Romney, who voted to convict Trump in the impeachment trial just to stick a metaphorical thumb in the President’s eye, would also abstain. Oh…I almost forgot Cindy McCain, who wouldn’t even invite the President to her husband’s funeral. The Times says she’s not supporting him either. Stop the presses!

The silver lining here is that the evidence that the mainstream news media is biased and untrustworthy is becoming so obvious that those who deny it increasingly brand themselves as fools or liars.

2. Perhaps locking up the “Incompetent Elected Officials of All Time” award, nine members of the Minneapolis City Council have announced they intend to defund and dismantle the city’s police department following the police killing of George Floyd.

“We committed to dismantling policing as we know it in the city of Minneapolis and to rebuild with our community a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe,” Council President Lisa Bender said. “(We need) to listen, especially to our black leaders, to our communities of color, for whom policing is not working and to really let the solutions lie in our community,” she said.

Are communities, white, black and in between, being overrun by robbery, murder and other crimes? If not, policing is working. Obviously it is not working as well as it needs to when cruel thugs like Derek Chauvin can cause the death of a helpless man on video without thinking, “Hmm, maybe I should stop kneeling on his neck now.” Is throwing out the entire system in favor of a rainbows and lollipops no-police system that is undefined and untested a rational response to a public uproar over a single incident? Calling the response irrational is an understatement.

The silver lining is that this craziness should stifle anti-Second Amendment craziness for a while. As Charles C. W. Cooke said in the National Review,:

“Only the cops need guns” simply could not live forever alongside, “The cops are racist and will kill you.” And so, at long last, the two circles of the Venn Diagram have filed for an amicable divorce. In the end, the differences proved irreconcilable.”

A lawyer colleague told me today that his passionately gun-phobic wife asked him if he was stocked up on ammunition for his own gun.

3. NOW you tell us? The World Health Organization announced yesterday that government responses to the pandemic should focus on detecting and isolating infected people with symptoms, because  while asymptomatic spread can occur, it is “very rare.” The fact that people without symptoms of the viral infection could still infect others was the primary reason for the economic shutdown and stay-at-home orders. Between the “masks are useless/masks are essential” yo-yoing and the CDC’s “It’s no big deal”/”ARGH!!! We’re all gonna die!” vacillations, and now the “See, it’s not dangerous to protest in mobs when we like what you’re protesting for” hypocrisy coming from the “public health professionals,”  there is no escaping the damning conclusions that the experts thoroughly disgraced themselves over the Wuhan virus, and recriminations over President Trump’s response, flying blind through a crisis with malfunctioning instruments, are biased, dishonest and unfair.

The silver lining? Nobody should be bemoaning the President’s decision to stop funding these hacks.

4. More from the experts… The medical journal Lancet published a statement from the researchers who authored a widely publicized report saying that hospitalized Wuhan virus patients treated with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine had a sharply higher risk of death and heart-rhythm problems compared to those who did not receive the drug. This, in turn, was used a club to beat President Trump with, since he had talked about the promise of the drug and even announced that he was taking it. The researcher told the Lancet that they were unable to complete an independent audit of the hospital data underpinning their conclusions, and “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”

How widely was this retraction publicized by the media outlets who used the original report to attack the President as an irresponsible fool? How many of my Facebook friends who search through the news every day find anti-Trump pieces to share noted this reversal?

To be clear, the President is irresponsible to be promoting an unproven drug, and whether hydroxychloroquine turns out to be a cure or a dud is pure moral luck. However, that does not excuse the promotion of false information to discredit him.

Do you think the Lancet rushed an improperly vetted study into print because they wanted to undermine the President? And I see a silver lining in the public self-destruction of yet another profession’s claim to integrity. If onlt that other disgrace profession, journalism, would inform the public about it.

16 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/9/2020: “If” And Silver Linings

  1. The media is also making much of a group of former military leaders (I don’t say officers, because the list includes some civilian officials) banding together to say the president has violated the oath of office, is a danger and so forth. I won’t scoff, but I will point out that four years ago a group of about 60 former security officials of various stripes got together to sign an open letter saying that Trump must not be elected. Most of them were either establishment Republicans looking to either raise their profiles on the speaking circuit or position themselves to put the party back together after the disastrous defeat they thought was coming, or Democrats angling for an appointment in the coming Hillary administration.

    If you look at the current list, it’s mostly the same kind of people: Ash Carter, Obama’s Secretary of Defense, William McRaven, a well-known Obama apologist, Merrill McPeak, who turned on George W. Bush, appended his name to a similar list in 2004, and, surprise surprise, hasn’t supported a Republican since. This is nothing new. You also have folks like Jim Mattis, who was pushed out of the current administration, initially swore he was going to keep quiet and out of the spotlight, but has suddenly found a reason to speak out loudly against his former boss.

    That makes him a member of another group who are also starting to emerge again, although they are also nothing new. However, I’m going to give them a new name. I am sure you have all heard of the Band of Brothers, at least in passing. In life (there are few of them left), they were a WW2 unit of paratroopers. They were at least decent men pursuing a worthy goal. Well, this group I now dub the Band of the Bitter. Oh, we all say we get over things, we don’t let them bother us, and so on, but all too often our actions say otherwise. The Bush family qualify. They never got over the fact that GWB’s second term was a failure and that Trump pushed “low-energy” Jeb out of the 2016 campaign fairly early. Mitt Romney qualifies. He never got over the fact that he fell short in 2012, and that the GOP turned away from his approach four years later. His vote to convict the current president, which he must have known would change nothing, couldn’t have been for any reason but spite. John McCain was a charter member, if not the founding member, breaking with GWB on several issues because he was still angry at the 2000 campaign, never being dependable, and staying in the Senate when he knew he was dying just so he could stab Trump in the back on Obamacare, which he didn’t vote for the first time out. These are people motivated not by concern for this country, but by concern for getting even, no matter what it does for or to the country. I know more about wanting to get even than most. The fact of the matter is that the books of life just don’t balance out that way, as much as we might like them to, and trying to make them is just going to end up doing harm.

    So before you let yourself be swayed, think about who’s trying to do the swaying and why they are trying to do it. Men speaking the same message they spoke four years ago, men from the last administration who opposed the current one then and unsurprisingly oppose it now, men trading on their status to try to move up, disgruntled former employees, and the Band of the Bitter. Is that really a persuasive combination? Do you really want to cast your vote to help someone else get even? Just a few more things to think about.

    • Thanks for alerting me to yet another danger, Steve-O, but you’ve just got to realize that all this emphasis on men, men, men is going to get you in trouble. How is it that you can’t accept the fact that it’s their wives and sisters and mothers-in-law who do the thinking and make the decisions?

  2. On 2:

    I have no idea how they think that this is going to work. Not even from a “who will save our asses when shit’s on fire” perspective, I think people are focusing in real hard on that without me, but from an actual logistical point of view; Let’s say for shiggles that a city council of a middling sized city collectively had their brains liquefy and trickle out their ears, facilitating a vote to defund their police departments, or abolish their cops, or whatever bumper sticker sloganeering their dissidents used that week.

    Ok… Now what? Are the police all laid off? I have the feeling that policemen aren’t generally at will employees so their unions might have something to say about it. Are they expected to work, but not be paid? Are they expected to sell off assets to cover payroll? Really: What the hell is the plan? And that’s just the HR portion of it: Let’s assume that you can Thanos-Snap the entirety of the police force of your city out of existence… What about the support staff? What do you do with the assets? Do you lottery out the rolling stock? Sign me up for a tank! How about all those scary guns! Who gets those?

    Let’s be real; there is no plan. Some more reasonable people on the “defund” side (as low a bar as that is) say that they just want to roll the police back a little bit, demilitarize them, maybe make it so they don’t *have* tanks that need to be lotteried. Good conversations can be had about that, just like good conversations can be had about police brutality, or basically anything else on the swing back on the spectrum from progressive extremism, the problem is that progressive extremist has taken up too much oxygen and has been allowed to flourish. For every person saying “Well, actually, we just want to give them a little less money for tanks and have them trained and directed better” there is a person who literally means “Abolish the police”

    On 4:

    Let’s not forget all the medical experts and talking heads on air saying, literally, that people would die from taking hydroxychloroquine. Plaqenil is an FDA approved drug commonly used in treatment of Malaria. It’s been around for 30 years. It has mild side effects. Trump talking it up as if it’s effective is a mostly unproven hope, telling people they’re going to DIE as a result of taking it is a lie.

    • 2, Thus spoke Justice Democrat sock puppet Ilhan Omar ‘at an “anti-law enforcement rally” in Minneapolis over the weekend: “I will never stop saying not only do we need to disinvest from police but we need to completely dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department… The Minneapolis Police Department is rotten to the root. And so when we dismantle it, we get rid of that cancer and we allow for something beautiful to arise. And that reimagining allows us to figure out what public safety looks like for us.”‘

      By all means, let’s imagine what arises! Imagine! Imagine … Mogadishu! Isn’t diversity wonderful? We get the best ideas brought into our country from other parts of the world! What is wrong with Minnesotans? They really are all above average? They let in some refugees from a shit hole and lose their minds? “Let’s be like the country these refugees fled! Let’s let them govern us! They were so good at governing their country!” Woebegone indeed.

    • I’d say Trump’s comments on Hydroxychloroquine were as irresponsible as all those medical experts touting Remdesivir. Who are you more likely to trust, medical experts or the Prez on medications to take.

      Hydroxychloroquine has a 60+ year safety track record but minimal efficacy data. Remdesivir has limited data on both safety and efficacy. The big winner is the firm making Remdesivir when its stock price rose with the news it had gotten expedited approval.

  3. 1. So, not only do the Democrats hate him, but the craven, conciliatory surveillance-state Republicans I abhor hate him, too? I probably didn’t need a new reason to vote Trump, Democrats, but if I did this would’ve been very helpful.

    4. “[H]ydroxychloroquine had a sharply higher risk of death and heart-rhythm problems compared to those who did not receive the drug.” This is a misleading sort of statement as it is. Every medication is a low-dose poison. If you want to blur the lines completely, every food is a low-dose poison. If it caused 0.001% to die of cardiovascular complications while significantly reducing death due to the treated infection the statement could still be true while also not necessarily ruling out the medication as a viable treatment (I’d brave the milder risks associated with the disease itself, personally, but this is why medications ought to be prescribed with the risk factors of the specific patient in mind).

    Consider McDonald’s “made with 100% beef” with respect to whether that claim could still obtain if their hamburgers merely included 100% beef as one of many ingredients. This is how fraud is accomplished without telling actionable lies. From personal experience, a keen sense for detecting weasel claims will cripple a man with the insatiable desire to challenge two out of every three salesmen to a duel. One can and should, in every instance, blame a guy for trying, but, alas, our barbarous society forbids any just recourse.

  4. 3) They’re already walking back their statement:
    Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said Tuesday that asymptomatic spread is a “really complex question” and much is still unknown. “We don’t actually have that answer yet,” she said.

    “I was responding to a question at the press conference. I wasn’t stating a policy of WHO or anything like that. I was just trying to articulate what we know,” she said on a live Q&A streamed across multiple social media platforms. “And in that, I used the phrase ‘very rare,’ and I think that that’s misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare. I was referring to a small subset of studies.”

    Published Tue, Jun 9 202010:07 AM EDT

  5. 1. So, “Fake but true?” The irony is strong with that one.

    2. I hope they do. I can’t wait to see what happens, and I’m pretty sure I know what it will be. They deserve to reap the fruits of that position good and hard.

    3. Let’s paraphrase Dean Wormer: “Woke, broke, and stupid is no way to go through life…” The WHO has proven they aren’t very smart despite their degrees, and hopefully they’re gonna be broke. A de-funding I can get behind!

    4. Lancet

    Jack said:

    How widely was this retraction publicized by the media outlets who used the original report to attack the President as an irresponsible fool?

    Well, I saw it. It was reported on, although I have no doubt it was minimized by the usual outlets. That’s another good reason not to trust them.

    • Interesting article. The last sentence is worth repeating:

      When was the last time conservatives ever organized email campaigns to news outlets to stop them running opinion pieces by those they disagree with?

      Can anyone think of an instance?

      • No, but you’re talking about knee-jerk group action. The Great Unwoke are into individual rights, making their own decisions and leaving negative outside influences outside unless it’s necessary to resist them. Politics aside, I thought that was the American way. I don’t want to get maga about it – it is what it is and that (was) fine in all its myriad ways – but if not Trump, who is to be rallied round?

  6. #2: So we disband the police. Then I shoot a home invader. Who do I call to take care of the body?

    – Facebook Post (Author Unknown)

    • dragin_dragon wrote, “#2: So we disband the police. Then I shoot a home invader. Who do I call to take care of the body?”

      Depending on the condition of the intruder bleeding on your floor you call 911 to get an ambulance or the coroner. If no one answers at those two places I haven’t got a clue; do you have a garbage disposal? 😉

      • First, Steve, he isn’t gonna bleed for long. I got two clips and I’m shooting 230-grain jacketed hollow points. So, an ambulance is a waste of time. I have asked the local sheriff for a couple of body bags but he seems hesitant to supply them. Oh, well, I got a BIG back yard.

  7. Have you seen Netflix’s “Waco” yet?

    Would love an ethics review of it on two planes:

    1) Pretending the story portrayed is accurate (it isn’t as most shows aren’t), what are the ethics being communicated and what is right or wrong about that message.

    2) Knowing the story isn’t accurate, what ethics of the actual situation can be learned.

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