Weekend Ethics Wrap, 9/13/2021


1. Civil War progressive smugness is starting to get to me...Netflix is showing “Cold Mountain,” which I only saw in a redacted version on my flight home from Mongolia in 2003. This time, it struck me completely differently. The film adaptation of the novel about the suffering of ordinary Southerners during the Civil War reminded me how arrogant, ignorant and smugly cruel the social justice warriors are who want to topple all monuments to and memories of what half of this country endured, frequently with great courage, during a war that was infinitely more nuanced than “Pro-slavery vs Anti-slavery.”

Near the center of Old Town Alexandria, about 15 minutes from my home, was a statue of an unnamed Confederate soldier that stood at the intersection of two major streets. It was hauled away last summer at the peak of the George Floyd Freakout with nary a defender in the local media. The average soldier for the South, as “Cold Mountain” makes clear, wasn’t a supporter of slavery, didn’t own slaves, and was just following the decisions of state leaders who believed, quite correctly, that their states had every right to leave the U.S. when they felt it was in their best interests. Lincoln’s refusal to let them do so was legally wrong but ethically and pragmatically correct, but that doesn’t mean that the common man siding with states he regarded as his “country” were evil, traitors, or without character. The common Confederate soldiers, along with their families, were victims in many ways, and, as Mrs. Loman says, “Attention should be paid.” A statue commemorating their experiences, exploits and suffering is not only appropriate but valuable.

“Cold Mountain” made my mind flash back to this post, in which a social justice warrior baseball writer, Craig Calcaterra, mocked the opposition to Virginia tearing down Lee’s famous statue in Richmond by writing, “The only sad part of this is that, now that the statue is gone, how will we ever know what happened in the Civil War? I mean, that’s what those things were all about, right? At least according to a lot of people on the right who are so enthralled with monuments to racists and traitors.”

Calcaterra proved in that statement that HE doesn’t know what happened in the Civil War.

2. In case there is any doubt, pro-Trump “whataboutism” is exactly as obnoxious as anti-Trump “whataboutism.” A reader of Ethics Alarms sent me an email reacting to Sunday”s post about the “Fuck Biden” outbreak. She suggested that I was hypocritical, asking “Did you complain about the ‘Fuck Trump’ phenomenon?” and accusing me of a double standard. Nah, I never complained about the endless disrespect and calumny heaped on President Trump—I only wrote about it constantly from November, 2016 to the present! To use one of my Dad’s favorite expressions, the email made me “hit the roof,” so I wrote back in part,

“How about reading my extensive criticism of the treatment of Trump from 2016 on? It takes a lot of gall, and laziness, to default to “whataboutism” when you don’t have the context of the post, have not bothered to follow the blog, nor to take the time to research your question. I even gave you the relevant tag. I don’t think you even read the post! What part of…

‘In Donald Trump’s case, the aura, the armor, the respect and deference that the Presidency must have to work was stripped away, by the “resistance”/Democratic Party/mainstream media alliance that set out to undermine and neutralize his Presidency. The damage to the office done by Carter had been substantially repaired by 16 years of two Presidents who knew how to act Presidential (Reagan and Obama), 12 years of the Bushes, who held on to the office’s strengths for dear life, and one disgrace (Clinton), who was charismatic and canny enough to minimize the damage he inflicted on the Presidency. All of that was wiped away by the campaign of hate and debasement heaped on Trump, reaching such a pitch that the Speaker of the House ostentatiously tore up his State of the Union message on live television.

…don’t you understand? If that doesn’t answer your question, you have cognitive problems. So I assume you skimmed the post, or just defaulted to knee-jerk MAGA defensiveness.”

To her credit, she apologized, and admitted that she hadn’t read the post carefully.

3. We could call it “The American Civil Liberties Union,” or something like that...You know what this country needs? A non-partisan, fair, dedicated non-profit advocacy groups that fights for free speech and personal liberty regardless of whose rights are being abused. Glenn Greenwald has delivered a deft smoking gun proving, hardly for te firts time, the ACLU’s hypocrisy, noting that “The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) surprised even many of its harshest critics this week when it strongly defended coercive programs and other mandates from the state in the name of fighting COVID. ‘Far from compromising them, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties,’ its Twitter account announced…What makes the ACLU’s position so remarkable — besides the inherent shock of a civil liberties organization championing state mandates overriding individual choice — is that, very recently, the same group warned of the grave dangers of the very mindset it is now pushing. In 2008, the ACLU published a comprehensive report on pandemics which had one primary purpose: to denounce as dangerous and unnecessary attempts by the state to mandate, coerce, and control in the name of protecting the public from pandemics.”

4. Is sanity on the horizon? Probably not, but faithful reader Curmie sent this encouraging piece by Randall Kennedy from the Chronicle of Higher Education. The key quote:

It does no favor to students to spare their feelings if doing so comes at the expense of valuable education. Professor Stone concluded that vocalizing the N-word was “useful” but inessential. In my view, “useful” instruction should be pursued. Lawyers and judges frequently encounter distressing sights and sounds as part of their professional responsibilities. Every year, in hundreds of cases, “nigger” is heard in courts. It figured prominently in one of the most infamous murder trials of the 20th century — the O.J. Simpson case. A lawyer who becomes distracted or depressed upon hearing “nigger” or any other slur is a lawyer with a glaring vulnerability. I would hope that part of what a law school would impart to students are techniques of self-mastery that will enable them to manage their feelings in order to assist optimally the people and institutions that will rely upon them for guidance.”

15 thoughts on “Weekend Ethics Wrap, 9/13/2021

  1. https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/public-health-hypocrites

    Home/Articles/Politics/Public Health Hypocrites
    Public Health Hypocrites
    This is not how experts treated recalcitrants during the AIDS crisis.

    U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about combatting the coronavirus pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House on September 9. Biden outlined his administration’s six point plan, including a requirement that all federal workers be vaccinated against Covid-19. Biden is also instructing the Department of Labor to draft a rule mandating that all businesses with 100 or more employees require their workers to get vaccinated or face weekly testing. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
    SEPTEMBER 10, 2021|12:01 AM
    President Biden yesterday announced his plan to fight the coronavirus by penalizing the unvaccinated. Workers at companies employing more than 100 people will be forced to get vaccinated or else endure weekly testing. Federal workers and contractors will have no testing opt-out; they must get vaccinated. A passport system requiring vaccination for admittance to large entertainment venues was urged.

    Public health experts have lined up to commend the Biden plan. This is the height of hypocrisy coming from the same discipline that spent the AIDS crisis telling everyone that the real epidemic was stigma.

    The type of measures being applauded today were resisted tooth and nail when applied to AIDS, a much deadlier disease. In the 1980s, even mild, noncoercive proposals like contact tracing to identify sexual partners who might have been exposed to the virus were condemned as portents of oppression. “Contact tracing is a euphemism,” warned Thomas Stoddard of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund. “What they want to do is keep a list of sexually active people.”

    Back then, the watchword was voluntary. Officials avowed that their job was not to mandate anything but merely to educate at-risk populations to help them make informed choices. If some people persisted in making bad decisions after knowing all the facts, well, that was their right. This doctrine of self-restraint was adhered to even when many gay men announced their intention to keep making the same choices. “I refuse to blight my life in order—supposedly—to preserve it,” wrote one correspondent in the New York Native in 1983 in response to the suggestion that gay men should cut down on casual sex. “Just give me the facts and I’ll decide, thank you.”

    The most famous AIDS public health controversy was over the “bathhouses,” as gay sex clubs in New York and San Francisco were euphemistically called. When city officials proposed closing them as hotspots of disease spread, gay activist groups howled in outrage.

    The important thing to remember about the bathhouse controversy is that it was not just activists who insisted they stay open. Federal health officials said the same. James Curran of the Centers for Disease Control was careful to explain that, while he personally hoped that the bathhouses would close for lack of business when patrons came to understand the risks, state intervention would be going too far.

    Ironically, the one coercive measure that experts did embrace during the AIDS epidemic is one that is now more favored by Covid doves than hawks. Employees with AIDS often lost their jobs when their status became known, just as unvaccinated workers are losing their jobs now, and for similar reasons, the perception that they posed a threat to coworkers and customers. States and municipalities responded by extending anti-discrimination protections to HIV status, making it illegal to fire a person or exclude them from public accommodations for having AIDS. Florida and California banned employers from even giving their workers antibody tests.

  2. 3. I don’t think science supports vaccine mandates. 70-75% of adults are vaccinated in most places, I have not seen anywhere that 80% is the number that will save us, or 90% or even 99%. I live in one of those deep red areas, it’s also very rural. This mandate, if enforced, will cause chaos. People will quit before they do this. Especially with the volunteer fire department and ambulance. I don’t know what the hospital staff will do if people quit. They’re always looking for help too. The VA employs 3 people. I know for a fact one will never, ever get vaccinated. Even losing two people would be a nightmare because there is no one to fill that spot. The diner is closed half the time because they can’t find help. The heavy equipment repair shop has one truck driver for 3 stores and serves a 200 square mile area at least. The school is looking for a head cook, bus drivers, paras… rural communities can’t afford a mandate like this and will act appropriately which is to ignore it. “Mandate, what mandate?” Its unenforceable. The sheriff won’t, HHS doesn’t have the resources, OSHEA (or whatever federal acronym is used to enforce it) doesn’t either.
    My message to everyone. Chill out, if 70% vaccinated in less than a year isn’t good enough, neither is 80%, 90% or 99%. This virus is here to stay. Even IF everyone gets vaccinated. It’s still spreading amongst them, the pets can catch it. The rest of the globe is generally less vaccinated than us privileged Americans and will be for years.

    • I would like to add our county has had 792 total cases and 0 deaths from Covid since the beginning of this “crisis”. Never was a mask mandate enforced, and most refused to wear one this entire time, 90% of the county businesses are deemed “essential” which means we all worked through the scary beginning and have been working this entire time. That makes a huge difference in attitude. We didn’t have the luxury of hiding and everyone managed to stay open the entire time with precautions.

  3. 1. I’m beginning to believe that fight is over, and the pro-history people have lost. I remember that memorial too, I saw it when I went to church in the old town. It’s my understanding there had been pressure to move it ongoing for a while, and the George Floyd freak-out, plus the fear of violent destruction, just put it over the top. It’s now an article of faith in the Democratic Party that the Civil War was about slavery, nothing else, and that anyone who fought on the side of the south, from Robert E. Lee on down to the 18-year-old private who enlisted in early 1865, was a racist and a traitor. However, since none of those people are around to be prosecuted and hung now, we’ll have to settle for destroying their memory and punishing their descendants.

    The thing is, it isn’t going to stop here. This is only going to whet the appetites of those who want to destroy the memory of other historical figures who don’t measure up by the standards of the last decade and place an insurmountable burden of guilt on this nation’s shoulders. After all, how can anyone be proud of a nation that’s done nothing but damage the world since it came about, and which shouldn’t even be here in the first place? It used to be a common Christian saying that “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” It’s not quite that simple, of course, but the basic doctrine is that when Adam disobeyed God in Eden, he committed the Original Sin, and now every child born into this world bears the stain of that original sin. The only way that sin could be atoned for was by Christ suffering and accepting the punishment otherwise deserved by all men, and the only way that your personal stain could be washed away was by baptism in the name of Christ. Well, this is now the American Original Sin. When Columbus touched these shores, every white person sinned, and every white person since born on these shores bears the stain of that sin. Unfortunately, there is no Savior and no baptism that can wash this away, so no forgiveness is possible. You will just have to live with the shame.

    • At some point you just got to say no. No, I am not responsible for your suffering. No, history can not be erased. No, I have no shame from my behaviors to anyone. No, you can’t make me feel bad about the suffering of someone who is dead and buried in order for you to claim justice. No, I refuse to live in the “sins of my fathers”. We should honor diversity of thought and learn from our mistakes. Half the country wasn’t even a state during the civil war, so there’s that. Just stop. I’m a firm believer that we should study history to learn from it, respect the movers and shakers, imperfectly flawed as they were, but it can’t be edited for content to do that. There’s a triangle in psychology… one side is the victim, one side is the villain and one side is the rescuer. Society has fallen into this trap. The only way to not continue in this cycle is to step out of the triangle. I’m not these things and you can’t push me into these labels.

      • There’s a lot more than that: No, history isn’t that simple. No, it isn’t fair to hold people of five centuries ago to today’s standards. No, the victim doesn’t get to name the remedy. No, the person who did not commit the wrongs does not owe the person who was not wronged anything. No, there’s no value in magical thinking.

            • Maybe as 1 metric, but not as a team. If a football team wants to be “perfect” they have to never allow a first down or points scored against them and they have to always convert their downs, complete every pass, and run for positive yardage every time. No. Perfection only exists in the form of the 2013 classic “About Time”. Now that’s a perfect movie.

            • Was it a perfect game? No mistakes were made? Did everyone have a perfect life outside the game? Perfect uniforms? No injuries? Nope. No such thing. There’s costs, always.

              • To the knowledge of a few, *perfect* game signifies a win from the pitcher, or a series of pitchers after the match has lapsed for at least 9 innings. In this situation, the opposing players must not reach base. To meet this unbelievable feat, the winning side must prohibit any player of the opposing team from hitting, walking, and making hit batsmen. The opposing side must not arrive at the base safe. The result is an obvious ’27 down and 27 up’.
                In the history of the Major League, this feat has only been met eighteen times. That’s why the team must have a very skilled pitcher, with a dependable set of defenses, to make a perfect game.

                Hence, a game can be called as a ‘perfect game’ when it meets two criteria: The game should be a ‘shutout’ and at the same time a ‘no-hitter’. This term was first utilized in 1908, although its present definition has only been accepted recently, in the year 1991.


                • We’re looking at two different perspectives. It’s still not “perfect”. Their uniforms were scuffed, their bat boy tripped. Something about the game was imperfect, although yes, you could say any person or group can have a few perfectly good hours. You can not have perfection. Even the most perfect star, gemstone, rose, geode, whatever, if you dissect it long enough and zoom in close enough, it will be imperfect. Your perfect game is only perfect by one metric… incredible feat it may have been, it’s still imperfect overall. Just like the Olympic diver that got a “10” was, perhaps, perfect in that moment. She has had many imperfect dives, and if you slowed it down and looked closely enough no doubt you’d find something.

                  • Indeed, different perspectives. Still, by established baseball standards there have been 18 perfect games. What you consider imperfect (batboy, uniforms, etc.) does not in the least undermine the perfection of those 18 games because your examples are a normal part of baseball.

                    I have provided two earthly examples of perfect that do not involve judges (like diving or gymnastics) that you dismiss so how about Jesus?

                    • I realize Jesus has two sides. The human and divine. I think scholars have argued this exact question. I can not discuss religion well, because it’s not my wheel house, but I stand by that. Everything is imperfect if looked at closely enough. The gospels didn’t have every single moment of his life. So it’s unknown. Being human, he had imperfect moments, even the Bible has his moments of questioning God himself. (GOD exempted, of course because he isn’t of this Earthy sphere.)

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