Open Forum!

open_sesame

This is as good a place as any to announce a new commenting rule on Ethics Alarms that I should have thought of earlier.

On a post from June, a new commenter entered the fray making the increasingly popular Rationalization #64 claim that the kiddie versions of Critical Race Theory that are being used as propaganda in schools (the “1619 Project” course materials qualify) aren’t really CRT, which is “only taught in law schools.” (I’m not sure it is taught in law schools at all, since it has nothing to do with law.) When I replied that I didn’t appreciate that kind of disinformation on Ethics Alarms, he devolved into outright insults and the clichéd “Good day, sir!” exit that I’m still sick of, though it hasn’t surfaced in a while. I banned him of course (I was being generous to allow his first comment on, in retrospect: I’m looking for articulate progressives, but this jerk was a poor candidate), and I warned him about defying the ban, as he had the whiff about him of someone who would. Sure enough, he tried to return with successively more insulting retorts, which were promptly deleted.

This inspired me to launch the new rule: If a commenter is banned, and comes back and comments anyway, all of that commenter’s previous comments and posts will be sent to Spam Hell.

This isn’t an ex post facto edict, so the mercifully few past commenters who did this won’t be penalized (and I would not want to lose the contributions from the best of them). It also won’t apply to the self-banned going forward.

So that’s that.

Now, please contribute your usual provocative and ethical observations in this week’s Open Forum.

52 thoughts on “Open Forum!

  1. “If a commenter is banned, and comes back and comments anyway, all of that commenter’s previous comments and posts will be sent to Spam Hell.”

    I disagree with this policy as worded for this reason, just because a banned commenter chooses to be an asshole and comes back and comments after being banned shouldn’t negate the very presence of previous comments (maybe years and years of them) and that those comments had genuine value to the commentary community of Ethics Alarms. I think I worded that so my intent regarding the value of long-term commenters to the Ethics Alarms community comes across correctly.

    Since I “think” you were specifically talking about the conduct of brand new commenters that are being assholes after they were banned, consider rewording the new rule to read, “If a new commenter is banned shortly after their initial participation, and comes back and comments anyway, all of that commenter’s previous comments and posts will be sent to Spam Hell.”

    • No, the idea is to have a real disincentive for doing what, to name a recent example, Chris did. He was banned, and he had—has—a large presence here still, including some Comments of the Day. If a Chris-level commenter got himself banned, he would know that trying to sneak back on the blog with some snarky rejoinder would have serious consequences.

      Chris wasn’t the only A-List commenter who has tried this after being banned, and frankly, I’m sick of the routine. I have to track down these comments. Some banned commenters, including one who sued me, have used fake screen names and new email addresses to keep slugging away.

      Nope, this is a third rail now, like gambling on baseball for Pete Rose. If a commenter is banned, he or she will risk all of their work here by defying me. I don’t care who they are or what they have contributed. As I said, I’m sick of it.

      • Harsh, but necessary. Why am I not surprised Chris did that? Trying not to rant, I have to say that someone who insists on re-injecting himself into a conversation with someone who has made it clear he wants nothing to do with him is in need of some kind of help. In real life, insisting on pestering another adult who’d told you to get lost would be considered harassment. That said, some of us here have been guilty of similar behavior. As commenters, though, we do not have the ability to block someone annoying us like we would on social media, nor the power to cut off a thread that has deteriorated. I think if the moderator tells commenters to stop and is refused, there should be punishment for that also. That also said, it’s kinda dumb to take commentary on this site personally.

      • I would still disagree.

        Deleting ALL of Chris’s comments, in this example, would render unintelligible many of the conversations others engaged in, making many of their comments, lacking context, a morass. That’s unfair to those commenters.

        • But Chris was not always completely off the rails. Which probably made him even more infuriating when he did go off the rails. I think Jack’s dealing with commenters who are assholes right out of the box. Besides, this rule is not ex post facto, so Chris’s comments are safe.

          • Agreed, but the last year or so he was here he got progressively wackier. I tried to warn him he was headed down a path he should not go down, but he wouldn’t listen. I admit, I didn’t help things by whacking him pretty hard after his justification of the abuse of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but I had the wrong idea that I could knock sense into someone else. Knocking sense never works.

        • And it would be his choice to do it.Commenting here carries responsibilities to all participants. When someone demonstrates that they are so ethically inert as to refuse to honor a host’s rules and edicts, his or her ethical positions cease to interest me. As I said, Chris,and Meatshield, and the others whose past conduct would fall under this rule are safe, grandfathered in. But I have limited options to punish a banned commenter who keeps sneaking back. If you can come up with another option, I’m open to adopting it. But as I wrote to the jerk under question, the commenters who get banned tend to exhibit unethical tendencies later. I need a deterrent.

        • Michael West wrote, “Deleting ALL of Chris’s comments, in this example, would render unintelligible many of the conversations others engaged in, making many of their comments, lacking context, a morass.”

          This is a point worth discussing.

          Actually it doesn’t make the comments unintelligible it makes them simply go away. If a comment is deleted all the subsequent replies to the deleted comment become invisible because the address (digital pointer of sorts) of the comment that was deleted no longer exists and the program fails thus not displaying that which it cannot properly display. In PHP programs this displays a white screen for that area or if the programmer has thought about this error ahead of time it does nothing for that reference and moves on to the next task. From the point of view of the user, they are all effectively deleted, it’s as if the conversation never happened.

          • I just tested this on my blog and it is confirmed what I wrote as fact.

            I made a comment, replied to that one, then replied to the reply, then replied to the reply to the reply. There were 4 levels of comment in one thread. I deleted comment at level 3 and the level three comment and the level 4 comment disappeared but the level 4 comment was still in the database just not visible.

            • Based on what I know about programming and databases and then confirming what I know with an actual test, this is not something I would choose to do; however, this is Jack’s blog and these kind of choices are his alone.

            • I repeated the test and went out to 5 levels of replies and all the replies after the one that is deleted disappear from the blog post thread but they are all still in the database, the only one deleted from the database is the one I intentionally deleted. There are unforeseen consequences to deleting comments, this is just the one consequence that I know of.

  2. I don’t think there was a post on the Frontier flight crew that subdued a passenger by duct taping him to his seat. If you aren’t familiar with the story or videos, you can search for them which show the passenger’s unruly screaming and behavior and the subsequent restraint applied to him. However, I saw this video tweeted this morning, and it’s fantastic (in my opinion)

    My question is: Don’t airlines stock proper restraints for this type of situation? Why is it always a makeshift restraint based on whatever’s handy?

  3. Ick or unethical:

    https://futurism.com/the-byte/university-dead-professor-teach-online-class

    Summary: At some point while taking a class a student discovered their professor wasn’t actually alive. The class was taught by lectures and recordings created before his passing. Though now the class list another instructor of record he and two other students were running normal class operations (grades, answering questions, etc) while giving off the pretense it was the deceased.

    The article uses some rationalization that people works of art are sometimes released post mortem and if the former professor agreed to this I would see no problem with that. The larger problem stems from the fact students are being misled and cheated.

    • Unethical. The students are led to believe that their teacher was available and would be able to defend or answer questions about the content. Sure, in some situations, an assistant might field those questions, but at least there’s an appeal process to the professor. That doesn’t exist in the scenario presented above and the students need to be informed of that.

      Also, course materials can become outdated. How long would they continue to use these lectures? It’s fine to incorporate the lectures into a curriculum, but with full disclosure of when they were recorded.

    • Unethical, for the reasons stated above, but more than that… Teachers probably shouldn’t support this from a personal interest angle.

      See, if we’re moving away from in class learning because teachers are afraid of their students…. Why have Zoom classes? Why keep school hours? Why not just send out the modules as taught by the best and brightest of educators out there and allow kids to learn at pace? One person could teach a million. Heck, why limit Zoom classes to normal class sizes? Why not have one teacher teach the entire division? Imagine the labor savings!

      I’m not serious, obviously, but I’m too tired to channel my inner Swift. I do think teachers unions are shooting themselves directly in the foot by fighting school reopening.

    • I don’t know why her readers put up with this. She’s just jerking them around, making them jump through hoops.I check her blog far less than I once did. Not because she doesn’t still find the occasional gold nugget, but because I don’t like her very much, and her attitude towards commenters is a major reason.

  4. https://www.chicagotribune.com/real-estate/elite-street/ct-re-1205-elite-street-obamas-20191205-tpd3s54jenffrjyc7ucr3ef53a-story.html

    How on earth can the Obamas afford a twelve million dollar mansion on Martha’s Vineyard? I thought this was a rich guy’s crash pad they were borrowing to host his party for 500 of his closest friends. What did they do during their eight years in the White House that generated that sort of a net worth? There’s something really, really, fishy about this. And don’t say “writing books and producing video content.” And I’m not even sure Obama gives over-priced speeches. That’s beneath no drama Obama, isn’t it? This is just creepy. He’s living like a Robber Baron.

    • Oh, they can afford it, all right. Obama can command $400K+ for a one-hour speech. Michelle can command $200K+. (Hey, wait a minute! Why is she making so much less than he is? Because she’s a woman?)

      They’ve got a sweetheart deal with Netflix, terms not disclosed. You can bet that an hour of his time consulting will cost you plenty… Bottom line is that they can afford the house. And the place in DC, for that matter. Like the Clintons, they may have left the White House with only five or ten million on hand… but there’s plenty to be made later.

        • Deferred payments? Possibly, but most likely not. What one gets depends upon who one is: the bottom tier of the audience gets to brag that they heard Obama speak. But the upper level folks get access to Obama’s extensive network and, thus, connections to future deals.

  5. The Canadian women’s soccer team has won the gold with a transgender teammate.

    How long until the trans-woman arms race begins?

    • My only wish is for Dennis Rodman to come out of retirement, declare himself non-binary, and sign with a WNBA team.

      • You struck a nerve with me, Bobby. Dennis always struck me as running like girl, as did Bruce Jenner. Speaking of Caitlyn Jenner, I wonder why she doesn’t enter the next Olympics as a girl and win all sorts of events, even at her age.

        • Maybe Jenner is or isn’t taking the necessary hormones to qualify. Or if he is, maybe doing so would render him non-competitive.

  6. Gonna repost this here. Tim LeVier found this and it’s solid.

    Thread:

    • Wow, that’s above and beyond ethics giving me credit for liking & retweeting something…all I did was stumble upon it same as anyone else. (Except, I can’t remember where I stumbled upon it, but I think from a website.) Of course, my motto is not to tweet a link to a site that wrote an article based on a tweet….. I just go to the tweet and interact directly.

      Which brings me to another point…what is this version of journalism that creates nothing new, just writes an article about what someone said in a tweet and then provides the tweet as a source?

  7. I write this post to discuss current national vaccination strategies, in
    hope of finding a more balanced approach, which better reflects the
    nuance of mortality risk from real world data.

    I submit that The United Kingdom (and other countries) has become far
    too focused on achieving arbitrary vaccination targets amongst the
    young, who can be shown to be at very low innate risk of severe illness
    and death from Covid-19. Therefore, the relative benefits of pushing for
    vaccinations amongst younger and younger people (using progressively
    more draconian and coercive methods), will only produce diminishing
    returns. I hope that any future policy proposals are better calibrated
    towards acknowledging the extreme risk disparity between the young and
    the old. The risk disparity is so large that it also has profound
    ethical implications for richer countries’ duties to poorer countries,
    with respect to vaccine donation.

    It is with a sense of extreme frustration that I observe online
    discussion regarding Covid-19 vaccines – a wide gulf of opinion has
    opened between two opposing, entrenched and aggressively vocal camps.
    Either the vaccine is a medical miracle, our ticket out of the pandemic
    and should be mandated to every man, woman and child on the planet. Or,
    it is a dangerous experiment that is being forced on people against
    their will, that shows little benefit of efficacy and has dangerous,
    potentially deadly side-effects.

    I propose that, by analysing available data, a different picture
    emerges. One which suggests a more balanced understanding of where mass
    vaccination is, and crucially isn’t, appropriate; that an age-targeted
    vaccination approach would be most effective at preventing Covid-19
    fatalities. This suggestion is certainly nothing new – if we re-wind to
    the end of 2020, the UK Government was keen to announce the national
    vaccine rollout, targeted specifically to the oldest and most vulnerable
    as priority. In a predictable example of “mission creep”, this sensible
    strategy morphed into an insistence that all individuals must be
    vaccinated, irrespective of age, co-morbities and previous infection.

    By combining age-stratified mortality data, vaccination data and UK
    demographic data, it becomes easier to understand why age is the most
    important factor in the cost benefit calculation for vaccines:

    r/LockdownSkepticism – “Mandate vaccination for everyone, including all
    children” vs “The vaccines are dangerous, deadly experiments” — using
    England’s age demographics + Covid-19 mortality data to appeal for
    nuance + proportionality in the vaccine debate
    Figure 1: Age Demographic data + age based Covid-19 data

    Figure 1: Source 1, Source 2 + Source 3

    In Figure 1, we can observe that ages 60 and over account for 92% of all
    Covid-19 mortality, an overwhelming majority, from just 24.1% of the
    total population. By contrast, ages 0-40 account for just 0.8% of total
    mortality, despite representing 49.8% of the total population.
    Therefore, the skewing of risk towards older age groups is so
    overwhelming that we should also expect relative benefits of
    vaccinations to be equally asymmetrical.

    This can be demonstrated through a thought experiment. Imagine that, in
    March 2020, we had the ability to click our fingers and 100% double
    vaccinate everyone in the UK. From recent Israeli data, we know that
    vaccines do not bestow sterilising immunity; double vaccinated people
    are still capable of showing symptoms, spreading the virus to others,
    being hospitalized and dying, but at reduced rates. Let us assume that
    the virus spreads in a similar epidemic wave through the whole
    population (although in reality this would be a flattened curve due to a
    vaccine-slowed rate of spread; yet the total number of exposed
    individuals would be the same). Looking specifically at reduction of
    mortality, if we assume a vaccine efficacy of 90%, we can compare the
    following two examples:

    Ages 80+*: Population demo size: 2,855,599, Number of recorded deaths
    overall: 47,052 (approx 54% of total recorded deaths) So, if we assume
    the vaccine reduces death by 90%, and we could have achieved 100%
    vaccination on day 1 of the pandemic, 0.90 * 47052 = 42,347 deaths could
    have been prevented.*

    This translates to 1 life saved for every 67.4 doses given, amongst this
    age group.

    Ages 0-19: Population demo size: 13,330,355, Number of recorded deaths
    overall: 45 (approx 0.1% of total recorded deaths) So, if we assume the
    vaccine reduces death by 90%, and we could have achieved 100%
    vaccination on day 1 of the pandemic, 0.90 * 45 = 41 deaths could have
    been prevented.

    This translates to 1 life saved for every 329,144 doses given, amongst
    this age group.

    The above example shows the staggering disparity in the relative benefit
    of vaccinating the very old versus the very young. In this particular
    case, vaccinating the old is nearly 5,000 times more effective at
    reducing mortality per vaccine administered.

    The same argument applies if you use a range of assumed values for
    vaccine efficacy: (highlighting 70 to 90% in green because it is likely
    to fall into this range)

    r/LockdownSkepticism – “Mandate vaccination for everyone, including all
    children” vs “The vaccines are dangerous, deadly experiments” — using
    England’s age demographics + Covid-19 mortality data to appeal for
    nuance + proportionality in the vaccine debate
    Figure 2: Range of assumed values (0 to 100%) of Vaccine Efficacy
    (Reduction of Mortality) + Number of Vaccine Doses required to prevent 1
    death

    In Figure 2, we observe that, irrespective of reduction in mortality
    provided by the vaccine, there will always be a wide disparity in the
    number of doses required to prevent 1 death.

    This metric is useful because, with simple multiplication of “number of
    doses required to prevent 1 death” by the cost of a common vaccine, you
    can derive “cost of vaccination to prevent 1 death”. In the following, I
    use a cost of $23.15 USD for Pfizer (source) x 2 for the required double
    dose:

    r/LockdownSkepticism – “Mandate vaccination for everyone, including all
    children” vs “The vaccines are dangerous, deadly experiments” — using
    England’s age demographics + Covid-19 mortality data to appeal for
    nuance + proportionality in the vaccine debate
    Figure 3: Cost of vaccination to prevent 1 death, for a range of assumed
    values (0 to 100%) of Vaccine Efficacy (Reduction of Mortality)

    Figure 3 demonstrates the diminishing returns which vaccination of
    increasingly younger groups incurs. For the 20 – 39 age group, at 90%
    vaccine efficacy, we should expect an average cost of $1,214,883 USD to
    save one life. Compared to the extremely modest cost of $3,122 to save
    an 80+ individual.

    How should the age-related risk disparity affect vaccine policy?
    Having recognised that such diminishing returns exist, I offer my own
    opinions on what a proportionate mass vaccination strategy would look
    like below:

    80+ In this age group, everyone should be fully vaccinated. For every 60
    to 80 jabs administered, another life is saved. Education campaigns and
    every reasonable form of social pressure should be applied to the
    unvaccinated (although there aren’t very many of them in the UK, less
    than 5% left non double vaxxed). The financial cost per life saved is
    modest and well within medical norms.

    60-79 As above, but 300 – 450 jabs administered per life saved.

    40-59 More marginal but definitely worth mass vaccinating, England has
    more than 80% in this category already double-vaxxed, but focussing on
    the remaining 20% would be beneficial.

    20-39 Once you get into 20-39, 1.2 million to 1.6 million dollars per
    life saved is a staggeringly high cost; Higher than your average
    individual would contribute in an entire lifetime to tax revenue. But if
    people choose it for themselves, and the medical cost benefit ratio is
    low (this will vary depending on individual circumstances) then they
    should have access to voluntary vaccinations. Pushing for arbritrary
    targets in this demographic should not be done (currently around 35% are
    double vaccinated in the UK).

    There is no justification for policies which coerce or bribe people in
    younger age categories to take up this vaccine, if they don’t choose it
    for themselves. Allowing them to acquire natural immunity via exposure
    will achieve similar results with respect to mortality, because deaths
    are so rare in this demographic anyway (current total mortality rate of
    0.0042%)

    0-19 – No mass vaccinations should be considered in this group. At
    estimated costs of 13 to 20 million dollars per life saved and a total
    mortality rate of just 45 out of 13,000,000, this group is already
    innately close to zero risk of mortality prior to vaccination.

    Donation of vaccines to poorer countries
    As the above numbers show, there is an estimated 5,000 times greater
    benefit for each vaccine administered to a person aged 80+ compared to
    ages 0-19. This makes the ethical argument opposing vaccinating
    teenagers in Western countries (versus donating those same vaccines to
    poorer nations for their old people), overwhelming – in a vaccine supply
    limited world, how can we accept giving vital vaccines to individuals
    who will experience nearly zero benefit?

    If we do not change course on these policies, I fear people of the
    future will view our decision making as profoundly selfish and immoral.

    Conclusion
    I wish to make it clear that I am not opposed to vaccination. I think
    the benefits of vaccines for the vulnerable are undeniable, clearly
    outweigh the risks and I would strongly recommend anyone who falls into
    older age groups or has co-morbidities to get vaccinated as soon as
    possible. However, the benefits of vaccination should not be
    exaggerated. If Covid-19 affected all age demographics equally, there
    would be no debate here, but we know this is not the case.

    A key part of good public health leadership is being clear and honest
    about the data that is available, to ensure that the trust of the public
    is maintained. It is not unreasonable to expect public health policies
    to be proportionate to the real world risks, and I think the current
    policies do not adequately meet this standard.

    – Reasonable-World-154

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