Afternoon Ethics Excursions, 7/16/2021: Pandemic Consequences, Boston Bans Excellence, And What Do You Get When You Cross BLM With “The Great Stupid”?

SkipperProfilePic

I promise, this tour takes a lot less than three hours…

1. Nah, Black Lives Matter isn’t a Marxist organization! Here was the public statement of BLM regarding the pro-democracy demonstrations in Cuba:

BLM1

BLM2

BLM3

Yeah, all those Cubans waving U.S. flags and calling for “Freedom!” are blaming the U.S. for their miserable lives under Communism. “Great Stupid, thy name is Black Lives Matter!” Well, nickname anyway.

2. Ethics Quote of the Week: Sen. Marco Rubio. The Cuban-American Senator from Florida replied to this channeled Communist propaganda by tweeting, “Wait… [Cuba] had restrictions on importing food & medicine? How can that be? All week long the national media has been reporting it’s the US embargo restricting food & medicine to Cuba.” He added, “My office stands ready to help the leaders of the Black Lives Matter organization emigrate to [Cuba].”

Bazinga!

3. This looks like fun: A new board game called “Virtue Signal” can be purchased here. Virtue Signal: The Game of Social Justice “is a card game parody of social justice activism. In Virtue Signal you play as one of several different social justice warriors. The object, simply, is to attract a coalition of NPC followers to your cause, whatever that is. The first player to 15 is the winner. Virtue Signal simulates the power struggles and one-upmanship that goes on between activist groups. The issues themselves are of little consequence, they are merely useful tools to get leverage over others.” Having once published my own board game that crashed because of the vicissitudes of moral luck, I wish the creators luck. Not only is it attractive,

Virtue Signal game

…there are extensions to the game, like “The Deplorables” expansion that “adds over a hundred new cards … and allows you (finally) to grief other players as a disgusting internet troll.”

I’m going to buy a bunch as Christmas gifts!

4. The American Bar Association apparently runs Boston. I’m actually surprised this took so long. My home town of Boston, Mass, decided to jettison a merit-based, color-blind admission system for its top schools in favor of series of quotas. Under the new system, the applicant pool will be divided into eight groups based on the socioeconomic conditions of their neighborhoods. The admissions team will consider applicants within each group, admitting the top students in each tier in roughly equal numbers. It is a system of discrimination that attempts to hide behind complexity. The bottom line is that a black student from a family with the same financial resources as a white family or Asian-American family in the Boston area but placed in a different “group” will get into Boston Latin while their differently-hued competitors will not, even if the latter have better test scores. As the ABA will explain to the critics of the system, that’s inclusion, not exclusion.

The rationalization for this discrimination is that wealthier families can afford tutors and special courses to improve their kids’ test scores. (Note: I got into a special academic class, college and law school without taking any prep courses or considering one. My father thought they were a means of cheating.) It’s a bogus excuse. Boston could ban the use of such prep methods for the entrance exam (my favored solution) or provide funds to help economic disadvantaged families to afford them.

5. Let’s add all these deaths up, if we dare. The lockdown as the panicked response to the Wuhan virus apparently resulted in about 30,000 extra drug-related deaths in 2020 over the previous year. In evaluating the wisdom of the economy- and society-wrecking lockdown, these are among the deaths that need to be balanced against the pandemic statistics, along with the extra suicides, murders, deaths from delayed surgeries, nursing home deaths, and deaths at the hands of released prisoners, among other results, direct and indirect Then maybe we can calculate the compensatory cost of all the careers, lives, families, industries, businesses and communities ruined or wounded as American trembled in fear and isolation from a virus they were repeatedly lied to about, and that still was mostly a mortal threat to only the sick and elderly.

6. And finally, this cultural note: I first saw Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” when it came out in 2015, before everything started spinning out of control. I just watched it again in its four episode, streaming version. I liked it much better, for some reason, but I was also struck by what the existence of such a mean and ugly—but funny!—film portends.

Like “Django,” Tarantino’s other Old West riff, this is an anti-Western black satire. The classic Westerns celebrate American virtues and values, individualistim and sacrifice. Tarantino’s warped perversions of them celebrate moral decay and societal rot, and are the cinematic equivalent of projectile vomiting into the face of the nation with the message, “You had it coming.” Every tenet of “The Cowboy Code” is shattered; the pretense of human decency is mocked. There are no heroes, just villains of varying levels of villainy. The Western that began the trend of using the genre to insult America rather than inspire it, “The Wild Bunch,” is “It’s A Wonderful Life” by comparison. The movie was a box office success, and critics generally praised it. 50 years ago, it would have been regarded as obscene.

I also wonder what will be the fate of movies like this one in which the word “nigger” is used in proper historical context and to convey racial conflict. How can such films be shown when law professors are being run out of their positions by merely reading the word as a quote from a SCOTUS opinion?

30 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Excursions, 7/16/2021: Pandemic Consequences, Boston Bans Excellence, And What Do You Get When You Cross BLM With “The Great Stupid”?

  1. Re 3: It is surprisingly well-rated according to Board Game Geek (up there with Dominion!). Having seen a number of bad games that are gimmicks this one is probably worth a shot.

    Re 6: Coincidentally I re-watched Blazing Saddles last night. The “Morons” scene is just perfect (the disappointed watery eyes really sell it and the laughter at the end is totally sincere). But in the end it is Western promoting the right values, which makes it an enjoyable movie in that genre.

    • Exactly right. The life cycle of a genre is at the end stage once the genre is so familiar and without surprises that it begins spawning parody, but BS maintained the basic values and spirit of its target even in satire.

  2. So, out of 11 Million people in Cuba, BLM thinks only 4 Million are black or brown?

    Does that mean 7 Million are white? WHO? The Castros?

    It would be very nice if someone would send BLM some selection of quotes from Che Guevara (another White guy?) about black people.

    -Jut

  3. 6. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Quinten Tarantino film, but I nominate him as an ethics corrupter. I’d also describe him as a clinically depressed opportunist.

    Why do healthy societies generate these cancerous, self destructive organisms that attack their host?

  4. #1: Funny they mentioned doctors loaned to other countries. According to an acquaintance of ours, whose father was a Cuban doctor, that’s quite literally what their government did, as if the person were just another state-owned truck or case of shovels. According to him, the doctor had no say in the matter, and his own family had to provide for itself as best it could without his income during the period of the “loan”. Dad kept his head down, played the good little commie, and finally managed to be allowed to bring the family along on an assignment in S. America, where they bolted for the U.S. when they got the chance. They’re not fans of the system.

  5. 4. These diversity admissions programs completely undermine the legitimacy of elite schools. They’re saying, “We can take any student and turn them into an elite graduate of our elite institution simply by virtue of our placing our imprimatur upon them.” Anyone who thinks schools can take marginally intelligent kids and turn them into really intelligent kids is an idiot. One of my college English professors said to me within the last year or so, “You were bright, Bill, but you weren’t THAT bright.” Teachers at every school talk constantly about the quality (or lack of quality) of their students. I’d say other than compensation, it’s their primary concern. My college foreclosed on the women’s college it had started across the road after underwriting it for about ten years because it was no longer able to attract a high enough quality, i.e. intelligent enough, applicant pool and student body.

    What’s a Boston Latin admission and degree going to mean going forward? A friend was a librarian at a Princeton University library for a while. She had a scholarship kid who was supposed to work for her in the library as part of his work study program. When he’d actually show up, she’d give him assignments he’d never even start. And it wasn’t as if he was studying the rest of his time. Quizzed about his attitude by my friend, the guy responded, “My work is done. I got in.”

    Football coaches know you can’t teach speed. More than any other group, educators know you can’t teach intelligence. These diversity administrators are whistling past their own institutions’ graveyards.

  6. #5. I think the proper way to measure the comparative death impacts is by using something called “life hours.” Simply put, you not only count an individual loss of life, you assess the the age of the individual who died against that person’s life expectancy. This is a fairly common measure used in public health policy discussions, but one I was unaware of until I saw Scott Atlas discussing it in May, 2020. Looking at it that way, we see that the Wuhan virus, which killed predominantly older individuals over age 60, may not have had as much of an impact as the lockdown, which affected a much younger population through suicides, deferred medical treatments, and drug overdoses. In fact, Atlas was noting that by the end of May, in terms of total life hours lost, there was a pretty good argument that the lockdown was doing more damage than Wuhan.

  7. On 4: “Boston could ban the use of such prep methods for the entrance exam (my favored solution)”

    No, they couldn’t. Not only would it be blatantly unconstitutional, but even from a “let’s pretend the constitution didn’t exist” perspective; It would be almost impossible to actually enforce.

    I mean, really… What possible angle could a government use to prevent the private individuals from spending their own money on education or training?

    And then, if you managed to squeak something through… How do you follow through? Do you start lopping off the heads that stand too tall? Do you surveil prospective applicant’s homes to make sure there’s no interaction with contraband tutors? What does this ban even look like?

    • I don’t see how that would be unconstitional. Studying, sure. Can’t stop that. The conditions for taking the entrance exam can be anything reasonable that the schools choose. Could you ban kids with a juvenile record? Of course.Could you ban entrants by age or previous institutional experience? Why not? You include a statement on the application documents that assert that the student has not taken any commercial course in preparation for the exam nor hired a professional tutor for the same purpose. What is the Constitutional provision you think that would violate?

      Hard to enforce? Sure, just like cheating on resumes is hard to enforce.That doesn’t mean we should allow cheating on resumes.

      • “Could you ban kids with a juvenile record? Of course.Could you ban entrants by age or previous institutional experience? Why not?”

        Is this even a serious question? There is a material difference between “Applicant has a criminal record” and “Applicant paid someone to help him study”. There is also a material difference between “Applicant has grades lower than the normal bar for entry” and “Applicant attended special classes to help them boost their grades”.

        “What is the Constitutional provision you think that would violate?”

        The First Amendment. If Boston decided to say that no one who ever attended a Justin Bieber concert was inadmissible from admissions, they’d be sued into oblivion. The school has to demonstrate a reason why they’re discriminating against certain behaviors, you even make this point yourself (emphasis added):

        “The conditions for taking the entrance exam can be anything reasonable that the schools choose.”

        And you will have a hell of an uphill battle selling the idea that paying someone to help prepare for an entrance exam out of some misguided sense of equity is a reasonable reason to abrogate someone’s rights.

        “Hard to enforce? Sure, just like cheating on resumes is hard to enforce. That doesn’t mean we should allow cheating on resumes.”

        Two things:

        First… You know very well that there is a difference between a government institution acting as a government institution, and a government institution acting as an employer.

        Second: (And more importantly) You still have to sell the idea that doing academic prep work is bad.

        This reminds me of the story a couple years back, there was a professor was saying that being read bedtime stories as a child was an example of white/affluent privilege. That there was a benefit to later cognition in reading your children bedtime stories, and that was giving the children of wealthy people a disproportionate advantage over the children of people who didn’t have time/couldn’t afford books/whatever. His answer to this equity problem was almost identical to yours: Parents shouldn’t read to kids! Heck, he didn’t stop there, stop parents:

        https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/new-family-values/6437058

        “One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.”

        I believe we talked about this at the time.

        • The idea isn’t that academic prep work is bad. The idea is that it creates an uneven playing field for those families who can afford it. I doubt a First Amendment theory would fly. If the alternative is discriminating against deserving students because of race, the prohibition would seem to be reasonable, because the alternative is worse, more unfair, and clearly unconstitutional.

          • Test prep courses are essentially gaming the system. You’d have to make applicants also state they haven’t consulted any test prep books, which are basically compendia of old exams. I never looked at any of those books and courses were not available back before electricity. Plus, let’s face it, I was too lazy. We all to the PSAT as a trial run.

    • I’m with you on this one, HT. I’m not enough of a lawyer (that is, not a lawyer at all) to say how this might not be constitutional, but sure feels like it would run up against something…freedom of association issues or contract law, maybe?

      “It would be almost impossible to actually enforce.” is an understatement. I’d be tempted to risk improperly using “virtually” in place of “almost” in this case. As you note, would schools try to investigate every suspected, reported, or rumored violation? How would that work, and why even make that a sticking point for “fairness”? Life produces inequities long before a child gets to the 11th or 12th grade (if they do). A child is born into an affluent, educated two-parent home, is talked to, sung to, read to, and has her own little library by the time she’s two. She’s loved and properly fed, exposed to the world but protected, challenged and encouraged. She’s going to have an advantage over the kid who feels lucky if the worst thing that happens to him at home is his being ignored, whose never-married mother makes him go to school to avoid having family services remove him as her meal ticket, and the only time a book is in the house is when he doesn’t leave his school bag in his locker.

      The left is already on its way to giving us 1984; now some want to go for Harrison Bergeron.

      • Question: Do you think openly discriminating on the basis of race is a more constitutional response?

        And: laws are enforced, ethics are supposed to be self-enforced. The argument that an ethical mandate can’t be “enforced” has led to the abandonment of too many important cultural norms to count, and the institution of such self-defeating measures as handing out clean needles to drug abusers. EA has been consistent on this point

        • It’s NOT open discrimination on the basis of race. At worst, it’s discrimination on the basis of class, that functionally mirrors discrimination on the base of race.

          And we have spent millions of gallons of digital ink on how inequality of outcomes, even racial inequality of outcomes is not necessarily the direct result of racial discrimination.

          • And again…. How the hell do you decide which cases you’re going to care about? There are millions of ways that wealthy people are advantaged over poor people, and that functionally means that there are millions of ways that white people, on average, are advantaged over black people, on average. We could play the game every minute of the next week and not run out of topics. Why are prep schools special?

            • Were we talking about prep schools? I thought we were talking about special tutoring for what is supposed to be an aptitude test and not a “who has more experience gaming the test” test.

                • Sure. I agree that you can’t ban prep schools. (Though they are indeed a class-based boost for students of questionable ability.) They also aren’t ad hoc single event advantages that many students of similar ability can’t access, distorting the system. Actually, the Boston system might have the effect of de facto banning prep schools, or pseudo prep schools (like Boston Latin).

                  • The Boston Plan will gentrify poor neighborhoods inside a decade as affluent people take up residences in poor neighborhoods to give their kids a better pool to compete against.

          • Sure it is. It’s an end-around direct racial discrimination, but the end result, and the intended end result, is to make it easier for one race to get into schools at the expense of another race. That’s intent. In your own recent words, “Come on!” You can’t call this an accidental racial outcome when you know that if the result didn’t benefit one race, the policy would have never been devised.

            • Of course it would have. You’re falling into the same trap that the identity politics left does.

              The thought pattern is: These programs are meant to advantage the rich, the rich happen to be white, therefore these programs advantage white people over black people.

              Except they don’t they advantage every white person, or most white people, or even a plurality of white people, over black people. The difference between a poor white person and a poor black person isn’t the amount of money that they have, and your average poor white person is going to be no better or worse off in this matter than the poor black person. The group most disadvantaged by this in raw numbers is still going to be middle class white Americans.

              It doesn’t matter what race the wealthiest people are, if the wealthiest people in America were black, these prep courses would disproportionately benefit black people, and they would absolutely be in place.

              • Huh? It is screamingly obvious that the whole point of the Boston (and New York) change in admissions policy is to make it easier for blacks and Hispanics to gain admission to the elite schools at the expense of Asian and white students. That a few of the latter may slip through is the unintended consequence. Surely you see this.

                • Obviously…. What’s your point?

                  Just because the progressives running Boston and New York want to solve a racial equity problem with a racial equality problem doesn’t mean that the equity problem was actually the product of racial discrimination. Hell, half the time it doesn’t even mean there was a problem.

                  Black people are disproportionately in jail for murder. That’s a racial equity problem, but not actually a problem, because murder is actually bad, and they probably committed the murders. We aren’t going to throw innocent white people in jail to balance the scales, and we aren’t going to let black murderers off the hook either. Or at least we shouldn’t.

        • “Question: Do you think openly discriminating on the basis of race is a more constitutional response?”
          OK, who are you and what have you done with Jack? This whole idea of banning tutoring, etc., seems like part of an equity over equality argument.

          And yes, I think passing regulations that can’t be (as opposed to just “aren’t”) enforced is unethical, especially if they will be viewed as arbitrary and unfair government intrusions on legal private behavior. They’re “do-something-ism”. They waste resources, and promote distrust in the competency and fair-mindedness of authorities, many of whom already have very little of that currency. They encourage people to disregard other rules, and create criminals where none would have otherwise existed. The ability to actually enforce them would be to go further down the path to totalitarian control with children informing on their parents, neighbors sending anonymous notes to the Stasi, & etc.

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