Sunday Morning Ethics Wake-Up, 4/11/2021: Giving Millions To Harvard, And Other Madness, Some Of It Foiled

Historical airbrushing comes to my backyard: the Alexandria School Board voted last week to approve “Alexandria City High School” as the new name for T.C. Williams High School, which is a stone’s throw from my house—in fact, I throw stones at it all the time. You have to admit, the new name is catchy, kind of like “Washington Football Team.” At this point, T.C. Williams was just a name: the man Alexandria’s largest school was named for died in 1963, and I doubt one citizen here in a thousand, and no students in the last 20 years, had a clue who he was or why the school was named for him. In fact, Thomas Chambliss Williams was Alexandria’s Superintendent of Schools from the 1930s to 1963, and presumably the school had been named in his honor to recognize his long and presumably successful service. But, we are told, he “promoted the school division’s resistance to desegregation efforts.” Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t; it’s probably a good bet, given the time period, but these accusations are put out to the public as fact (as in the recent San Francisco fiasco) and nobody bothers to check or challenge them.

Current Superintendent Gregory Hutchings Jr. said in part, “We are excited about the Board’s decision to adopt the [name] of Alexandria City High School…[to] honor the diverse, inclusive and anti-racist community that ACPS is striving to become.” Yeah, if anything says “anti-racist” it’s “Alexandria City High School”! That name brings a tear to my eye, I can tell you. Once upon a time, successors to long-time public servants operated with some fealty to the Golden Rule. Would they like to be smeared forever as terrible people 50 years after their deaths based on a cultural shift, or a faddish, empty catch-phrase like “anti-racist”?

1. Good. Making reasonable accommodations so the handicapped can participate in society is one thing; burdening citizens and organizations with crippling expense so they endure no disadvantages at all is unethical. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act, a troubling number of activists have demonstrated an inability to tell the difference. Thus Ethics Alarms welcomes the 11th Circuit’s ruling last week that websites are not public accommodations that must be accessible to blind users unless they create a barrier that excludes disabled people from accessing goods and services in a physical space, like a store.

The decision supported Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., a grocery chain, in the lawsuit by plaintiff Juan Carlos Gil, who is legally blind. He sued because he was unable to use the Winn-Dixie website with his screen-reader software. Gil wanted to use the website to fill prescriptions because in-person requests could be overheard by other people standing nearby. He felt having to wait 20 to 30 minutes for the prescription after making an in-person request was too much to bear, so he forced the company to engage in long and expensive litigation.

Title III of the ADA limits places of public accommodation to physical locations, the 11th Circuit said in its April 7 opinion. It bans discrimination on the basis of disability “in the full and equal enjoyment of public accommodations,” with “discrimination” occurring when an operator of a place of public accommodation fails to take steps to ensure that no person with a disability “is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services.” The law as it stands is bats, embodying the Carter-era delusion, now rampant, that society has an obligation to eliminate all individual disadvantages. The law’s examples of public accommodations included hotels, restaurants, theaters, auditoriums, schools and grocery stores, however, so the 11th Circuit seized on that to limit the law in a way its creators would not have done, if they had any clue what a “website” would be. “No intangible places or spaces, such as websites, are listed. Thus, we conclude that, pursuant to the plain language of Title III of the ADA, public accommodations are limited to actual, physical places.”

Now watch Democrats try to expand the ADA to include websites, raising prices, costing jobs, and creating havoc.

2. More partisan censorship from YouTube<yawn!> Once, this would be shocking news, but now we know, don’t we?

The social media platforms are ideologically-slanted propaganda organs, and they deal in deliberate and sinister censorship. This week, YouTube deleted the video of a Wuhan virus roundtable discussion including contrarian Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and well-credentialed medical experts from Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard who disagreed with Centers for Disease Control directives that children should wear masks in school. Cody McCloud, DeSantis’s press secretary, condemned the move as “another blatant example of Big Tech attempting to silence those who disagree with their woke corporate agenda,” NBC News reported. That seems fair. The panel included Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University; Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a biostatistician, epidemiologist, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School; Sunetra Gupta, an infectious disease epidemiologist and epidemiology professor at Oxford University; and former Trump White House pandemic advisor Dr. Scott Atlas.

“YouTube has clear policies around Covid-19 medical misinformation to support the health and safety of our users,” YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez said in defense of the censorship. “We removed AIER’s video because it included content that contradicts the consensus of local and global health authorities regarding the efficacy of masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

By all means, the public shouldn’t be able to hear opinions that contradict a consensus! Of course, the fact that credentialed experts have different opinions means there is no consensus, but this fascist excuse for censorship has worked well for climate change activists, so why not with the pandemic? If it contradicts those in power, it’s “misinformation.” Got it.

3. This goes straight to the Res Ipsa Loquitur files: The most recent pandemic relief bill cost just under $2 trillion. Despite not housing and teaching students on campus full-time for most of the last year, 5,300 colleges and received just under $40 billion in funding from the federal government, which is, you know, deeply in debt. Some of the schools need it, but need was apparently not a key consideration. Many obscenely wealthy institutions are receiving far more in government bailout funds than universities and colleges with small endowments. Only one Ivy League school, Dartmouth,  is receiving less than eight digits’ worth of taxpayer-supplied funds. Princeton, with a $26.6 billion endowment, is receiving $12 million, Yale  got $17.3 million (to add to its  $31.2 billion endowment, and Penn received  $26.3 million despite its nearly $15 billion reserves. Columbia and Cornell each received about $33 million, and Fair Harvard netted $25 million. Yet my alma mater, which sends me desperate pleas for cash regularly while it embarrasses me with its unethical conduct, has a $41.9 billion endowment.

During the first round of pandemic pork, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Penn, and Stanford withdrew their applications for emergency funding following mockery by former President Trump, then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and others. Once Trump had been defeated, however, the institutions quietly changed their stance, our crack news media didn’t say a word, and they got our money.

Would someone like to defend this?

4. On Prince Phillip’s death. Apparently spineless wimp Prince Harry will attend the funeral of his grandfather next weekend, “setting in motion fevered speculation about whether the reunion would mend fences in the royal family or sow deeper discord” says the Times. Right. Attending the funeral will completely make up for Harry sitting like a loyal spaniel as his wannabe Kardashian wife accused Prince Phillip and the Queen of being racists. There’s nothing that shows love and respectquite like accusing an old man fighting for his life in a hospital of being a racist.

Meg is lucky she’s pregnant so she has an excuse not to fly: she would not be welcome at the funeral, and for good reason. Apparently the BBC received complaints from viewers claiming excessive TV coverage of the 99 year-old’s death, presumably from the same subjects who relished the endless media coverage of Princess Diana’s demise. Phillip’s contributions to the public interest dwarfed hers in both length and gravitas.

5 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Ethics Wake-Up, 4/11/2021: Giving Millions To Harvard, And Other Madness, Some Of It Foiled

  1. Color me unsurprised at the renaming of the school. I’d say the city is lucky it’s just being renamed the vanilla (which, btw, isn’t the plainest ice cream possible) “Alexandria City High School,” rather than being named for some hero of the black lives matter pantheon. Previous to last year I thought only the Communists renamed stuff to impose their vision, which is why St. Petersburg stands again and the largest new non-carrier warships in the world arrived named for Communist party bosses, but, after the fall of the Soviet Union, suddenly all reverted to the names of 19th century admirals. Hopefully it won’t take 70 years to get over the Great Stupid.

    1. Reagan said government’s philosophy was, “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it, and if it stops moving, subsidize it.” The Democrat philosophy is “If it works, tax it. If it’s useful, tax it and regulate it. If it doesn’t work, subsidize it. If it doesn’t work and is not useful, subsidize it and make sure it can vote. If there’s any reason, sue it.”

    2. Yawn is right. Youtube is good for nostalgic cartoons and 10-minute history presentations. News, nope.

    3. If you can’t get what you want, wait till the administration changes. Pa-thetic.

    4. Prince Philip is to be laid to rest at Frogmore, near his history-making ancestors Victoria and Albert and other royals, but far from the crowds and pomp of Westminster Abbey or even Windsor (a lot of the recent royals, including the last 3 kings are buried at St. George’s Chapel) after a small ceremony closed to the public (but available to watch online). I don’t think he minds that there won’t be one more parade, one more grand ceremony, one more flypast, or one more of any other big event in his memory. In his 74 years of service he saw and participated in every grand event possible, and I think it’s a nice touch that he will rest forever in a relatively quiet and humble place. What he had more than enough of in life, he does not require more of in death.

    Maybe after this pandemic ends (and it will) the Royal Marines can parade in his honor, and the Royal Navy can honor his memory with a flypast in their shiny new F-35s, but that’s more for the public, not for him. His record, especially as a fighting naval officer in the greatest war against tyranny, is plenty of a memorial.

    Just for the record, I don’t believe that Meghan is incapable of attending. She flew over 10,000 miles in her last trimester with Archie. I believe either she was warned off by the Royal Family so as not to be a distraction, or she chose not to go to spite them. Either way, the pregnancy just provided a way out. Frankly, she doesn’t deserve to be present at the funeral of a genuine hero who did his part for freedom and was a MODEL of what a spouse should be, but who she called a racist while he was in what was probably his final illness. WW2 vet, WW2 combat vet, veteran of two major battles (Cape Matapan, Sicily Invasion), model husband, rock and confidante to the queen for 74 years, administrator of too many charities to list, and public servant until the age of ninety-freaking-five, none of that matters. As far as Meghan and her woke fans are concerned, the fact that his attitudes toward race were not the 2020 ones means he was a racist, and that’s all that matters.

    I don’t think she’ll be missed. She is not well liked by either the royal family or the people of the UK generally. Divas are not well liked. Women who drive wedges between their husbands and their in-laws are not well liked. Social climbers are not well liked. Woke pains in the ass are not well liked. When you take away all the trappings, her story really boils down to one that’s pretty familiar: the mouthy, overly opinionated daughter in law dominates the husband (who she has totally doped up on her foo-foo dust) and tries to take over her in-laws. However, too many of them stand up to her and she can’t. So she drives a wedge between the husband and his family, bundles him and any children they may have off someplace very far from the in-laws, and refuses to speak to them or let them see those children. Then she blames the in-laws. How many of us have dealt with a daughter-in-law or sister-in-law like that? Probably too many.

  2. Regarding number 1, I am a little torn on this one. It is not actually difficult to make a website screen reader accessible. Screen reader abilities are already built into the browser, so individual websites do not need to do that themselves. They simply need to write their HTML properly, so the screen reader has the tags it needs to read the page. The programmer should be doing that ANYWAYS, for a whole host of software engineering reasons completely unrelated to the screen reader accessiblity functionality, such as making the code modular, extensible, and readable to other programmers. It should not be a difficult task to accomplish, and should be done regardless of whether you want a screen reader to work or not.

    The problem is, a lot of companies are colluding to actively attempt to lower the average pay for programmers. In order to accomplish this, they hire people who don’t know what they are doing, so they can pay them way less than someone who does know what they are doing. Companies are willing to spend absolute gobs of money on incredibly inefficient and elaborate schemes to get out of paying a single programmer what they are worth. Hire fifteen incompetent people to do what one competent person could achieve? That works great! The actual total amount of money spent on fifteen incompetent people is much, much higher than what it would have cost to hire one competent person, but there was no high salaried individual hired hired so they count it as a win. That the actual code ends up an unreadable mess that no one can update or change without causing major problems does not seem to matter to most companies. That the code ends up insecure and vulnerable to hackers also does not seem to matter much to most companies.

    Once someone who doesn’t know what they are doing turns the code into a mess, then you have a problem. Fixing bad code is much more time consuming and costly than writing good code to begin with. It would take multiple good programmers months to carefully pick all the code apart and fix it on a live website. Starting over from scratch would be much cheaper and easier, but might lead to discrepancies in functionality between the original website and the new one, upsetting customers. That is a lot of money to spend on something that already technically works.

    Does every website need to be screen reader accessible? No. Some websites are doing things like data visualization that are never going to be screen reader accessible. You cannot make things like point graphs or maps screen reader accessible. Some websites are used by people for tasks that require sight and don’t need screen reader accessiblility. If the website is intended to be used by someone driving a car, it probably does not need accessiblity for blind people.

    Should screen reader accessiblity be regulated by the government? No. Should companies be making websites that are accessible? Yes.

    Accessiblity is more than just screen readers. It’s also about making them readable by color blind people. There are a lot more color blind people using websites than blind people. You should make them accessible to deaf people, and people with fading vision due to age, as well.

    There is no commercial reason to make websites all green, in tiny fonts, with unnecessary sound capabilities and unreadable by screen readers.

    There are definite commercial reasons to avoid doing this.

    Companies make more money when more people can use their website. Companies make more money when their websites can add new features quickly and easily, and don’t crash all the time. Companies make more money when their websites are secure and don’t have constant data breaches causing bad PR. Companies make more money when they pretend to cater to groups such as the blind, by doing what they should already have been doing, and writing good code that automatically works with screen readers, thereby making themselves look good.

    It shouldn’t be necessary or even desirable for the government to stick its nose into things.

    • Since the dispute concerns Winn-Dixie’s pharmacy site, my gut feeling is that the company doesn’t want to make that portion of the site screen-reader compatible, out of fear that doing so opens them up to a whole new level of liability if they fuck up somebody’s prescriptions because of it. I imagine that mistakes and misinterpretations are more common among blind people using websites than among the sighted. It’s a predominantly visual interface, and translating that to audio-only is a bit harder in an interactive medium than, say, making a book-on-tape.

      Of course, I’m not saying it can’t be done, or that Winn-Dixie’s developers couldn’t do it. I’m suggesting that maybe their lawyers didn’t want them to do it. It’s almost a certainty that they spent more defending this lawsuit than it would have cost to make the website screen-reader compatible.

  3. I watched the MSM try to honor Prince Phillip. It was hilarious watching them try to point out that he was among the more popular royals because of his personality and his sense of humor and then state that his personality and sense of humor were offensive and inexcusable.

    They had a man on who said he was involved with Coach racing (think stagecoach), which apparently is a thing in Great Britain. He was at a race 6 or 7 years ago and Prince Phillip was competing. He said you could hear him swearing the entire lap of the course.

    They also told of a time he was visiting a DMV in Scotland and he asked the manager how he kept them sober long enough to take their test. I wish I knew the rest of the exchange. In my mind, it goes something like this:
    Prince Phillip to manager: “How do you keep them sober long enough to take their test?”
    Manager: “Well, how did you do it?”
    Prince Phillip: “I didn’t, I just married the queen!”

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