Saturday Ethics Catch-Up, 1/15/2022: Everything Is Seemingly Spinning Out Of Control!

Watch the spinning circles…you are getting sleepy…sslleeppyy! Now: you are ethical! And a fan of the Boston Red Sox!

Nothing? Well, it was worth a shot.

Today is pretty much a dud in ethics history, with the major exception that January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King. Not related to ethics but still a favorite historical landmark of mine, this date also marks the most inherently comic of all disasters, the 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood, in which a huge tank at the United States Industrial Alcohol Company building burst and caused tons of hot molasses to sloooowly move through the heart of the city in an 8-foot wave, killing 21 people, knocking down buildings, and leaving an unimaginable sticky mess that took weeks to clean up.

Why no disaster movie has been made about the unique catastrophe is a mystery.

1. Here’s an unethical boast...transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who was born and went through puberty as a male,”compares herself to Jackie Robinson,” according to another member of the University of Pennsylvania woman’s swim team, according to the Washington Examiner. “She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports.” This shows a flawed understanding of Robinson’s achievement. Lia would be closer to the mark if Jackie infiltrated the segregated sport of baseball by disguising himself as a white player, but even that’s not quite right, since it misses the unfair competition aspect of what Thomas is doing. She is more like the Barry Bonds of trans sports.

2. SCOTUS followed the law, so naturally the totalitarians and the hyper partisans are outraged. Whether or not having everyone vaccinated is desirable, it was, or should have been clear from the outset that OSHA didn’t have the power to make sweeping requirements based on national health concerns rather than those confined to the workplace. The arguments by the apparently lockstep Democratic appointees to the Supreme Court were shockingly weak, so the 6-3 ruling striking down the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers was strictly in line with Constitutional limits on the executive branch.

So was the 5-4 ruling allowing a similar mandate requiring health care workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated. That mandate applies to workers at hospitals and other health care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and was issued through the Secretary of Health and Human services.  The governing statute gives the Secretary the general power to issue regulations to ensure the “efficient administration” of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and generally authorizes him to impose requirements to protect the health and safety of patients. Since the power “falls within the authorities that Congress has conferred upon him,” the majority wrote that the mandate “fits neatly within the language of the statute.” In both cases, the Court’s majority chose to follow the law without distorting it for convenience or ideological purity. Republicans were not happy with Justices Roberts and Kavanaugh joining the progressive bloc for a narrow 5-4 confirmation of the health care facility ruling: they wanted a full-scale slapdown for Biden. Progressives, meanwhile, refused to accept the legitimacy of the rejection of the OSHA power grab. “The Justices sided with Covid-19!” wrote lawyer and author Jonathan Carmel in the Times Opinion page. Never mind that OSHA didn’t have the statutory power, this is a crisis! SCOTUS needs to get with the program! It is a the a typical argument behind every suspension of law and rights when the totalitarians take command. On the Rationalizations List, this is #31: The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”

3. Can you say “compassion”? “Empathy”? “Proportion”? How about “fairness”? Judge? Hello? 31st District Judge Alexis G. Krot told Burhan Chowdhury that his failure to maintain his lawn was inexcusable, and that he belonged in jail. 72-year-old Chowdhury had been having difficulty with yard up-keep after being diagnosed with cancer three years ago. His wife injured her back, and during a period of three months when their son was out of the country, the weeds and grass got out of control. After Chowdhury struggled to breathe as he explained to the judge that he was “very weak” and unable to clean up the grass that had overtaken the property over the summer, she told him, “You should be ashamed of yourself! If I could give you jail time on this, I would….The neighbors should not have to look at that. You should be ashamed of yourself!”

Nice.

Funny, I remember when I was a kid back in Arlington, Mass, and an elderly neighbor was bedridden, my father and some other residents of our street kept his yard neat for him. At the time, I just assumed that was how neighbors treated each other.

I guess not.

4. Speaking of unethical judges…Drew Clinton, 18, faced four years in prison under Illinois sentencing guidelines. He had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl while she was unconscious at a graduation party. When he came up for sentencing, however, Judge Robert Adrian threw out the conviction so he wouldn’t have to sentence him and Clinton could be released with time served. The nearly five months  Clinton had served in jail, the judge said, was “plenty of punishment” for what he had done.

After the public uproar over the ruling, Chief Judge Frank McCartney of the Eighth Judicial Circuit filed an administrative order last week removing Judge Adrian from handling criminal cases. Now he will preside only over small claims, probate, civil cases and other legal matters.

With judgment like he displayed in Clinton’s case, why should he be trusted to be a judge at all?

5. And prosecutors….Color me unsurprised. As several participants in yesterday’s Open Forum noted, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was indicted last week for making false statements to withdraw money from Baltimore’s deferred compensation plan and to obtain mortgages, according to a Department of Justice press release. She allegedly sought a $490,500 mortgage to buy a home in Kissimmee, Florida, and a $428,400 mortgage to buy a condo in Long Boat Key, Florida. This is signature significance coming home to roost. The last time her name appeared in Ethics Alarms was in July of 2016, in this post, which concluded, “Marilyn J. Mosby revealed herself as a rogue prosecutor, untrustworthy, dishonest, reckless and no longer dedicated to her duty as a law enforcement official, but unethically using her position to advance a political and social agenda.” She was eager to ignore the law and victimize police for her own political gain; it was wholly predictable that such an ethically-compromised official would be willing to break the law for financial gain.

6. The ethics issue isn’t the answer, but that anyone would have to ask such a disturbing question. , the New York Times’ generally reliable proprietor of the long-running “The Ethicist” advice column, easily gave the right answer when “Name Withheld” asked,

In a company staff meeting, a regional manager made a joking remark that was unquestionably inappropriate for that setting. It was sexist in nature but quite witty and clever. While many of us in the meeting groaned in disbelief, three employees laughed out loud. The manager has been suspended by human resources. Should the people who laughed at the comment, two men and one woman, also be disciplined?

Uh, no, sayeth the Ethicist:

It’s wrong… to penalize someone for laughing at a joke, not the least because laughter is sometimes a response to shocked embarrassment. The job of human resources, in any case, is to assess our conduct, not to plumb our souls. Making that inappropriate remark was clearly a choice, as laughing at it might not have been. The penalty paid by the speaker in question sufficiently communicates that the company intends to avoid creating a hostile work environment.

Bingo. Spontaneously laughing at a politically incorrect joke is thought crime at worst, and in a society that believes in individual freedoms, no one should be punished for such a thing. I wonder, however, what proportion of the public wants to see such people punished, if it is growing, and what its demographics are like.

30 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Catch-Up, 1/15/2022: Everything Is Seemingly Spinning Out Of Control!

  1. “I wonder, however, what proportion of the public wants to see such people punished, if it is growing, and what its demographics are like.”

    If this had been at a college/university, I can see everyone being punished. The demographics for the support of this are largely the young.

    • As applicable to the general public; despite the media and social media’s obvious push for us to believe it’s a growing sentiment (and probably also because of it), I see signs everywhere that the pushback against this is growing.

  2. #6–A New York attorney calls his wealthy art collector client and says: “I have some good news and some bad news.”

    The art collector replied; “let’s hear the good news first.”

    The lawyer “Well, I met with your wife today, and she informed me that she invested only $5,000 in a couple of pictures which she thinks will bring somewhere between $15 and $20 million, and I think that might be on the low end.”

    The art collector “Wow! Well done! She’s a brilliant business woman, isn’t she? What’s the bad news?”

    The lawyer: “The pictures are of you and your secretary.”

  3. 5. I think I have a similar story that just happened to us last night.

    My son plays in a Parks and Rec basketball league. The rules state only one practice a week. Personally, this isn’t enough. The team barely seems to grasp the fundamentals. Anyway, we went up against the same team two weeks in a row who clearly beat the tar out of us. In two games our team only managed to score 1 basket. At one point in the second game the opposing coach said “Maybe we should get the little ones out here to play against them?”

    The athletic director was a few feet away and laughed. I don’t want to get him in trouble for laughing at it, but he should have said something to stop it. When I asked him about it, he seemed to think it was no big deal. Should I say something to the Parks director about it or am I making this too big of a deal?

    • Entirely aside from the inappropriate joke (which, by the way, I would personally let slide), there is clearly something wrong with how teams are matched up in the league. I’m not familiar with how basketball leagues rate teams, but surely there must be some system commonly used to encourage more competitive matchups? Is it possible the other team is breaking the “one practice a week” rule?

  4. 2. I would have been happier if SCOTUS had ruled that forcing people to participate in medical experiments was unconstitutional, full stop.

    “ The governing statute gives the Secretary the general power to issue regulations to ensure the “efficient administration” of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and generally authorizes him to impose requirements to protect the health and safety of patients.”

    The vaccines do not stop anyone from catching or transmitting Covid. What do the vaccines actually do to protect the health and safety of patients?

    The vaccines are experimental medical treatments. No one knows what these drugs will do to people in the long term. Everyone is just assuming that the drugs are safe. We do not know that. What happens if they kill everyone who took them 3 years from now? What will ethicists be saying then?

    When did informed consent cease to be a factor in medical ethics? Coercion makes informed consent impossible.

    I hope these vaccines are as innocuous as everyone seems to think they are, and we do not get reminded of why forced medical experimentation is a human rights violation.

    • If I receive a polio vaccine, I don’t get polio and I don’t transmit it.
      If I receive a mumps/measles/rubella vaccine, I don’t get them and I don’t transmit them.

      Since the Wuhan “vaccines” neither stop the transmission of the virus nor prevent one from catching it, they cannot reasonably be called vaccines.

      This medical sleight-of-hand is getting a bit old, for sure!!

      • The people who would tell you “I before E except after C” are the same people who insist “You must believe the sCIEnce”!

    • My personal beliefs – I’m vaccinated, and may get boosted (depending on the next few weeks), but don’t believe anyone should be forced to get the vaccine. However, I think they made the right decision in both. My non-lawyer understanding is they ruled the Secretary has the authority to pass rules he/she thinks will help protect the health of patients covered by Medicare or Medicade. The logic (whether you agree or not) is pretty straightforward – unvaccinated healthcare workers are more likely to infect patients than vaccinated.
      Unfortunately, too many people that should have issue with a law that grants such wide power instead take issue with the SCOTUS.

      • I’m not upset with SCOTUS in particular. I’m upset with the entire government, the entirety of the media and big tech, and all the wannabe tyrants running around insisting they have some sort of moral authority to force people to participate in medical experiments simply because they want them to.

        I am not a lawyer, and I don’t know whether the case was made properly to SCOTUS in the first place. The parts of the arguments that I heard against the mandate sounded weak and based mostly on technical objections. I also am not educated enough in this particular field to know whether the SCOTUS ruling was a legally good or bad ruling.

        Legality aside, I’m saying the SCOTUS ruling was unethical. Perhaps that is because the laws in this particular area are garbage. That would not surprise me in the least. Most of the politicians passing laws during my lifetime have been garbage partisans trying to bolster their own power and clout and bilk money out of corporations and special interest groups. That the laws are bad doesn’t excuse any of this. Forced human medical experimentation is unethical.

      • Shadow, both vaccinated and unvaccinated can contract and transmit the virus. Hospitals are now allowing Covid positive workers to return to work because of staff shortages but Covid negative unvaccinated are summarily fired. If the Justices believe 100,000 children are hospitalized with Covid and many on ventilators then their reasoning is based on a fiction.

    • NP
      I felt the same way. Unfortunately, it appears the lawyers were arguing the cases on lack of legal authority instead of whether or not the whole idea of broad sweeping demands that people inject substances into their bodies for the benefit of others is Constitutional. I recall the time when Norplant requirement for public assistance was struck down as unconstitutional. Apparently, the lawyers and the SCOTUS like to avoid the big issues and only want to focus singular legal aspects of the case. Perhaps there is a good reason to settle cases narrowly but we seem to keep litigating the same broad Constitutional issues over and over again.

      • I noticed the same thing. No one ever actually argued that forcing people to inject themselves with experimental drugs was unconstitutional. Maybe it isn’t, but it ought to be. I just don’t understand how abortion can be a constitutional right due to bodily autonomy, but refusing to be experimented on doesn’t have the same protection.
        Is it because no one made the argument?

        • It’s because 1) there is no legal definition of “experimental.” If the FDA approves it, then it’s not “experimental.” 2) SCOTUS has ruled twice that the police power can justify mandated vaccinations. It’s settled precedent. In 1905, the Supreme Court ruled in Jacobson vs. Massachusetts that under a state law local health authorities could compel adults to receive the smallpox vaccine. Jacobson had argued the vaccination law violated his 14th Amendment due process rights.

          Justice John Marshall Harlan, writing for court’s majority, concluded that states under their general police powers had the ability to enact vaccine laws to protect citizens. Police powers allow a state to pass laws to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the public. “It is for the legislature, and not for the courts, to determine in the first instance whether vaccination is or is not the best mode for the prevention of smallpox and the protection of the public health,” Harlan wrote.

          The second decision is Zucht v. King in 1922. San Antonio, Texas excluded students from public and private schools who were not vaccinated for smallpox. Rosalyn Zucht’s attorneys argued the vaccine policy violated Zucht’s 14th Amendment due process rights. Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in the Court’s decision that “long before this suit was instituted, Jacobson v. Massachusetts had settled that it is within the police power of a state to provide for compulsory vaccination.”

          Yes, all news reports about the SCOTUS case should have included that background.

          • The only covid vaccine the FDA approved was Comirnaty. Comirnaty is not distributed in the United States. You cannot go get a vaccine with Comirnaty on the label. All of the vaccines available in the US are distributed under the emergency use FDA authorization, and the pharmaceutical companies have no liability for adverse reactions. I assume that is why Comirnaty is not distributed in the US. It is approved so the pharmaceutical companies would have liability for it. None of the distributed drugs have been approved by the FDA in the US. None of these drugs have completed long-term trials or even completed the animal trials that they would normally conduct prior to human distribution. Legal definition or not, they are experimental drugs, and the government is forcing people to take them.

            Putting that aside, they also do not work as vaccines. They do not stop an individual from catching or spreading Covid. The CDC actually changed the definition of a vaccine in order to lump these drugs into the category. The definition used to read “ Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose”. It was altered in 2021 to read “ Vaccine: A preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but some can be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.” Those previous rulings were made with a definition of vaccine that does not apply to these drugs.

            • I understand the distinction, but still: if the FDA authorizes use and distribution of a vaccine, it has realistically approved it. Republicans and conservatives, you will recall, have long argued that the path to getting drugs OKed was another example of excessive red tale and regulatory mania that increased prices and health care costs. This is why Democrats and Kamala Harris mocked Trump’s rushed vaccine search.

              • If it is approved in the legal sense, then legally the pharmaceutical companies are liable for adverse reactions, right? You cannot have it both ways. None of that makes any of this ethical. I would argue it makes it more unethical. “Approving” a vaccine no one can use so you can dance around the laws protecting people from forced medical experimentation while also trying to shield pharmaceutical companies from any responsibility for their products is highly unethical.

              • Also, the democrats have long argued pharmaceutical companies are evil, but now they can’t seem to kiss their asses hard enough. Both sides are behaving hypocritically. Their hypocrisy and partisan policy making doesn’t make forced medical experimentation on the people they govern ethical. It may be legal, but it is morally reprehensible.

            • Comirnaty won’t be available until after it is added to the childhood vaccination schedule. That will shield the manufacturer from financial liability for vaccine injury. That’s the reason for the push to get children vaccinated against a disease that poses little risk to them.

          • Thinking some more on this…can the CDC just redefine vaccine to whatever they want and have the ruling still apply? Could they redefine vaccine to something like “A product that stimulates a person’s body to prevent a specific disease or medical outcome, protecting the person from that disease or medical outcome. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.” And then force everyone who has ever had an abortion to take birth control for the rest of their lives or lose their jobs if the employer takes federal money? Force schizophrenics to take anti-psychotics to prevent delusions, or lose their jobs if the employer takes federal money? Kick them out of government subsidized housing? If the government has the right to force some medical treatments on people, where does that power end?

  5. 0. Not to mention there seems to be no crime movie about the Molasses Gang, either.

    2. As far as vaccines go, I can grasp the idea that a vaccine reduces the probability of contracting the disease, carrying it, or manifesting symptoms, or reduces the severity of symptoms. I can even accept the logic of requiring safety measures that don’t work 100% of the time. That’s how most safety gear works.

    The difference is that safety gear poses no risk to the wearer* and is mathematically predictable from a physical standpoint. Biological treatments have a lot more unknowns because every human’s biology is slightly different, and we can’t gather and process all that information about them. That’s why basic medical ethics requires a patient be given a choice as to whether to accept any treatment, knowing how it works, what the potential consequences are, and the probabilities of those consequences based on what we’ve seen happen already.

    *Except for safety gear made from materials known to the state of California to cause cancer, but that only illustrates my point. It’s not that California “knows” something other states don’t, even after they see that label plastered everywhere. Moving in or out of California changes neither the material nor a person’s body, either. It just means that California legislators decided to set a higher threshold for what they’re willing to label as “completely safe”. Individual humans get to set their own personal risk tolerances, too, when the predictions are fuzzy.

  6. >>Now: you are ethical! And a fan of the Boston Red Sox! — one out of two isn’t bad, eh?

    1) Maybe closer to the midget Bill Veeck sent to the plate once upon a time.

    2) I would rather they struck down both mandates, but I can understand the reasoning behind affirming the Medicare one. Truly, though, if the OSHA mandate had been allowed to stand, would there be anything at all that they could not do? That’s not the government I (or the Founding Fathers) signed up for.

    It does look like my company is still going to make us upload our vaccination cards or wear masks all the time if we don’t.

    The one thing I have stated before is that these are also not the vaccines we signed up for. A real vaccine is supposed to keep you from getting the disease at all. These are more in the way of a prophylactic or therapeutic than a vaccine.

    If saying all that makes me an ‘anti-vaxxer’ so be it. Fine. But then what do you call the people who believe that vaccines cause autism? Clearly they are something other than ‘anti-vaxxers’ as the term is now being defined.

    3)Sheesh. Talk about judges that need to be removed from the bench. That’s cruel and unusual.

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