Sunday Ethics Reformation, 3/20/22: The Brits Still Don’t Get That Freedom Of Thought Thingy…

Almost a lost week, but not quite. Starting today, I’m just going to “bugger on” in Churchill’s phrase; falling behind in all of these ethics issues and developments and debates has me feeling worse than my the effects of the various drugs and maladies I’ve been coping with the past 10 days or so.

I owe much gratitude to those of you who have been sending along encouragement, good wishes and suggested topics. Thanks.

1. I don’t understand this at all, but I know it’s ominous…

Sent to EA’s attention by a puzzled Curmie, esteemed blogger and Ethics Alarms commenter, the job announcement above tells potential applicants that The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA seeks to hire an Assistant Adjunct Professor on a “without salary basis.” While guaranteeing consideration for employment “without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or protected veteran status,” the announcement does make it clear that viewpoint discrimination will be applied, as all applicants must include

a “Statement on Contributions to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – An EDI Statement describes a faculty candidate’s past, present, and future (planned) contributions to equity, diversity, and inclusion. To learn more about how UCLA thinks about contributions to equity, diversity, and inclusion, please review our Sample Guidance for Candidates and related EDI Statement FAQ document.

This is for an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry, remember. Clearly diversity of viewpoints is not encouraged at UCLA; it is being actively discouraged.

2. Now THAT is an unethical protest. The Ethics Alarms Protest Ethics Checklist would score this silly ass’s conduct protesting for more and better anti-climate change mitigation as a worthless failure. Louis McKechnie, a mechanical engineering student, ran out onto the field during a soccer game between Newcastle United F.C. and Everton F.C. last week and tied himself to a goalusing a zip-tie. This brave and pointless act halted the game for all of eight minutes, after which he was hauled off by police and arrested.

Grandstanding is not protesting. Now, if the game of soccer was an existential threat to human survival, the eight minutes might have arguably meant something more than “I am a moron.”

3. If I felt better and could stay awake long-enough, I’d write a whole essay about this: “Biden has a cursed presidency,” observes Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. “He’s gotten nailed by the continuation of Covid, by inflation being out of control, by a lunatic leader in Russia and now soaring energy prices that are hitting voters in the pocketbook.” This reaction was predictable by the news media, which is now floating the an excuse for Biden and the Democrats that they are just unlucky. It’s an ironic argument: history teaches us that crisis and challenges are what make great leaders, or give great leaders a chance to strut their stuff. After Bill Clinton left office, there was much teeth-gnashing by his supporters that no great crisis arose that allowed him to demonstrate his alleged brilliance as a leader. While Obama was floundering, the mainstream media was suddenly full of op-eds explaining that the modern U.S. Presidency was just too darn hard for anyone to succeed at it.

This excuse is particularly weak in the case of Biden, whose policies on multiple fronts has created crises or make pre-existing problems worse. Of course luck plays a role in every President’s success or failure, but blaming a multi-lateral fiasco like Biden’s first year on “bad luck” is intellectually and historically untenable. [Pointer: Steve-O-in NJ]

4. Hyped, exaggerated, or mistaken, the results on public attitudes are the same. In the “Footnotes and Additional Information” section of the CDC’s Wuhan Virus Data Tracker, the CDC informed us that “On March 15, 2022, data on deaths were adjusted after resolving a coding logic error. This resulted in decreased death counts across all demographic categories.”

The Tracker had reported 1,755 all-time pandemic-related deaths for Americans under 18 years old. After the correction, the figure was 1,339 – a decrease of 23.7%. The NCHS has pediatric deaths even lower, at 921out of 73,508 from all causes. Before the correction, the CDC had reported a total of 852,178 pamdemic deaths in the U.S. for all ages. After the correction, there were 779,921.

In heavily “blue” Northern Virginia, it is still difficult to find more than a few residents not masking up themselves and their children, even outside. The CDC did this, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, using fear, as had been the case throughout recorded history, to cause the public to accept incursions on their liberty and rights to the pursuit of happiness. Way back in August ob 2020,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report stating that only 6% of pandemic deaths listed the only cause of death as the virus and no other co-morbidities. “For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death,” the CDC website read at the time. “Why are we just learning this now?” critics asked then.

Most of the public still doesn’t know the degree to which the mortality statistics have been distorted.

5. Ethics Verdict: Daniil Medvedev is entitled to “support” Vladimir Putin if he wants to. Nigel Huddleston, the United Kingdom’s sport, tourism and heritage minister, says that he will seek “assurance” from pro-tennis tour star Medvedev and other Russian tennis players that they do not support their country’s invasion of Ukraine. The ATP and WTA tours have sinceforbidden players from Russia and Belarus from competing under their country’s flags, requiring them to play as neutral athletes. Huddleston wants still more, “assurance that they are not supporters of Putin.” The 26-year-old star has only said of the invasion, “My message is always the same – I want peace in all of the world.”

250 years, and the Brits still don’t comprehend the basic right to think what you choose to think. Forcing anyone to “denounce” a country’s actions or a leader’s policies is an offense against human liberty allied to Putin’s values, not opposition to it.

17 thoughts on “Sunday Ethics Reformation, 3/20/22: The Brits Still Don’t Get That Freedom Of Thought Thingy…

  1. 1) Marginal Revolution, a splendid blog centering on economics but ranging far afield, has been following this story and pulling in various tweets. The specifics are still somewhat speculative, but the consensus is that the school has identified a candidate for the job (possibly funded by NGOs) and is posting the job this way because their policy requires them to post all openings.

    2) As someone on Facebook noted, the silly bugger is apparently unaware that zip-ties are made with petroleum byproducts.

    3) Having found blaming Putin doesn’t work, they’re moving on to shithouse luck. Wonder what comes next?

    4) Well golllllllleeeeee gee. In other breaking news, it turns out that Hunter’s laptop is real.

    • 2) I’m pretty sure your average Brit is much more concerned about unnecessary disruptions to EPL matches than climate change.

      3) They’ll revert to whacking their favorite pinata, AIM: TRUMP! Kind of like a rondo: just go back to the theme.

  2. #1: “…candidate’s past, present, and future (planned) contributions to equity…”
    Maybe the no salary is a test of the candidates commitment.

    #4: “In heavily “blue” Northern Virginia, it is still difficult to find more than a few residents not masking up themselves and their children…”
    Per a poll (Yay, a poll!) discussed in the NY Times (of all places), the more strongly a person identifies as “liberal”, the more fearful they are of covid for themselves and their children. Almost half of the “very liberal” group see themselves “at great risk”.

    • I found this odd, but after quickly reviewing the faculty handbook of another university, I was quickly reminded of instances where unpaid adjunct faculty made sense.

      For instance, while I was an undergraduate, I was part of a Christian club. Registered clubs had to have a faculty advisor, but our group had a professional staff member from the parent organization. Our staff member raised his own salary from various donors, but was allowed register for volunteer adjunct status so that he could also be our club’s faculty advisor. This also gave him campus privileges so that could, for instance, reserve meeting space and perform other administrative tasks for the group.

      I also recall from the academic side of things, we would occasionally have guest lecturers from the industry teach some classes. These were individuals who earned $300K+ from their day jobs, so serving as “uncompensated” adjunct faculty was essentially a community service effort on their part.

  3. #1 is it not to UCLA that there’s nothing more exclusionary, nothing better designed to perpetuate privilege, than to offer a PhD position with no salary? What kind of person do they imagine can afford to put in the time and expense of pursuing a PhD, and then follow that up by working for no pay?

    On another note, I don’t know how it works for academics, but for engineers I was taught that upholding the principle of fair compensation for engineering work was a professional ethical duty.

  4. In all of history, it’s only in my lifetime that I have seen the news media make excuses for failure by a president. I really should say it’s only in my lifetime that I have seen the news media make excuses for failure by some presidents while accusing others of never being able to get it right. That’s probably only because I haven’t read a whole lot of news articles from the time before I was born, but, even when I was younger the difference wasn’t as pronounced. I don’t remember the media being so obviously a booster of one party and an obstructor of the other probably until the election of Bill Clinton.

    Crisis management is a required skill for leaders and a measure of leadership, although perhaps accomplishment in proactive measures and handling of the day-to-day grind are underrated vis-a-vis crisis management. When a crisis hits, it is our leaders we look to to reassure us that the crisis will be handled and to handle it. That is why we elect them to be our leaders. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader, and not everyone is cut out to be a leader in times of crisis. Sometimes we only find that out when a crisis hits. However, history is sometimes so concerned with the achievements of those leaders who stepped up and succeeded that it gives short shrift to the lessons to be learned from the leaders who failed the test when it came.

    I remember a Peanuts comic strip from fairly early on in which Charlie Brown tells one of the other characters that he has been reading about the decline and fall of the Roman empire, the decline and fall of Hollywood, and the decline and fall of some other institutions. He ends by saying “I’ve always been fascinated by failure!”. We in the audience are supposed to laugh because it is considered odd and even neurotic to want to read about failure, and who except writer-designated chew toy and loser Charlie Brown would do that?

    However, when you think about it, sometimes the failures have as much to teach us about what not to do as successes have to teach us what to do. For every Abraham Lincoln, who stepped up to save a nation divided against itself (although he might have saved it a little sooner if he had found himself better generals earlier), there is a timid James Buchanan, who let fear and uncertainty paralyze him as the crisis unfolded before him. For every Winston Churchill, who bore the last light in Europe through its darkest night, there is a Neville Chamberlain, who tried to purchase “peace for our time” with appeasement, and helped plunge Europe into that night. And, for every Ronald Reagan, who got the economy moving again and won the Cold War, there was a Jimmy Carter, who smiled benignly as a nation fell into stagflation, told us to put on a sweater as energy prices soared, and let a third rate regional power like Iran embarrass us for more than a year.

    The differences between those leaders who passed the test versus those who failed the test is stark. The results speak for themselves. In all cases it is pretty obvious why those who failed failed.
    Although now we have the benefit of hindsight, that’s really not an excuse to give any of those failures a pass. America’s voters saw what was going on with Buchanan and Carter and turned them out of office before it was too late. However, in both cases, they probably should have seen that those they were voting for were not up to the task. Carter was only elected because America was angry at the Republican party for the behavior of Richard Nixon and blamed Gerald Ford for pardoning him. Buchanan was only elected because his opponent (a former military officer and explorer named John C. Fremont, who has unfortunately been reduced to the answer to a trivia question) was the first to run under the banner of the Republican party and too many people feared what would happen if someone from a party who was expressly anti-slavery was elected. Neville Chamberlain only got as far as he got because the British people were afraid of another experience like the Great War. What the American voters got was malfeasance, and what the UK got was maladroitness. Both should have seen it coming. James Buchanan may have been a good advocate in court, but there was no evidence that he was any kind of manager or leader. Jimmy Carter was a lackluster governor who did not have any particularly impressive credentials. Neville Chamberlain was lackluster before he became prime minister.

    None of those three leaders should have been where they were when the crises they had to deal with came, and it was largely because of their incompetence that those crises erupted into the huge and in some cases world shaking events that they were. It is basic managerial competence not to hire or promote those who are ill-suited to the job you need to hire or promote someone into. If you do, then you should not be surprised at the results that follow.

    Another lesson from history is that frequently those who seek power for its own sake are the least suited to wield it. Therefore, giving it to them should be carefully considered. The people of Cambodia supported Pol Pot, who was obviously a power-hungry revolutionary, because he promised to bring peace to a country torn by civil war. The people of Russia supported Lenin because he promised them “peace, bread, and land.” The people of Cuba backed Castro because he promised to end corruption. Well, we know how all of that ended. Giving power to those least suited to wield it is often the equivalent of handing matches to an arsonist.

    The American electorate cannot claim to not know who Joe Biden was. The man had a record longer than most. He is and was a career politician with an undistinguished record that consisted mostly of a talent for wearing people’s patience out and “falling up.” He had very few legislative achievements to his name and did not achieve very much during his eight years of being Obama’s stand in at events not deemed important enough to merit his presence. Despite his assignment to find a cancer cure and to be point man on violence against women, he left office with no tangible results on these lofty sounding initiatives. He was only nominated because he was not Bernie Sanders, who, despite some of his supporters being very noisy, did not have a prayer in the world of being elected, and he was only elected because he was not Donald Trump, who received all of the blame for the twin crises of covid and the George Floyd freak out, and no credit at all for his attempts to deal with them. Even Obama said not to underestimate his ability to screw things up. He knew full well what everyone else should have known, that Biden was a screw-up and should not be trusted with anything too important.

    Unsurprisingly, his first year in office consisted mostly of reversing everything Trump did, without consideration for whether it was good or bad objectively. Also unsurprisingly, he proved his old boss to be right. There is and was no limit to his ability to mess things up. Essentially, Joe Biden is King Midas in reverse. Everything he touches turns to shit. In my field, he’s the kind of person that a client would call up about and tell the boss “you can’t let this guy touch another file.” If he’s lucky, the boss would find a place for him to continue to work without being too visible, but, as likely as not, the boss would have to call him into the office and tell him that the clients didn’t want him doing any work for them and as a result he was going to have to be let go. This is before we even talk about his behavior towards women, which would not be tolerated from a politician from the other party and is not tolerated in his own party now once someone proves to no longer be useful or to be expendable. Unfortunately, for at least the rest of this year he is too useful to do anything about. The upshot of this series of bad decisions and bad policy has been, unsurprisingly, bad results. He was not going to morph into FDR as soon as he took the oath of office. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, at his best, he might have been an all right president in an uneventful time, maybe the beginning of the 20th century or the mid-1950s. He would be maybe okay if all he had to do was allow prosperity to take its course and keep small crises small. Maybe I’m looking back at the past through rose colored glasses, and there never really was a time that was completely uneventful. However, everyone knew or should have known that he was walking into a whole cluster of crises, between covid, rising crime, and deeper divisions than this nation has seen probably since the Civil Rights movement. Then there were still the ongoing issues of Afghanistan and the southern border. That’s a pretty daunting series of crises to walk into. Even a president with the communication skills of Ronald Reagan, the energy of Teddy Roosevelt, the forcefulness of Andrew Jackson, the political skill of LBJ, the intellect of Thomas Jefferson, Washington’s gift for choosing just the right people for the right job, and Abraham Lincoln’s moral leadership, would have trouble with this series of crises. Biden has none of these, and frequently the opposite of these attributes. You don’t send Howard the Duck to deal with a crisis that even The Mighty Thor or the Silver Surfer would have trouble with. You don’t send the village idiot on a quest that even Sir Lancelot or Roland would not be guaranteed success on. You don’t take on an M1A2 Abrams tank with a peashooter. If you do any of those things, you shouldn’t be surprised at failure, and you are lying if you blame that failure on bad luck or say somebody up there has got it in for you.

    Some say there is no such thing as luck, it’s all about skill. Others say that you make your own luck by being proactive. Still others say that you must move ahead no matter what, because if a bullet has your name on it there is no avoiding it. Biden doesn’t check any of these boxes. Blaming his constant bumbling and bad choices on bad luck or a cursed presidency is ridiculous and disingenuous. It’s especially so in light of the fact that those in the media who are trying to put this dishonest tripe out would never accept that excuse if a president from the other party was having issues. As you correctly pointed out, these were the same people who said that it was too bad that no major crisis arose on Bill Clinton’s watch, because he would have absolutely crushed it, and said that the presidency was too hard a job for any one man as Obama went from weakness to weakness. These are also the same people who said that anything that went wrong on Trump’s watch was all him and anything that went right on his watch was in spite of him, and said of George W. Bush as he campaigned for re-election that “somewhere in Texas a village is missing its idiot.”

    Ironically, it was George W. Bush who pointed out that we judge our enemies by their worst examples and ourselves by our best intentions. I think we have moved beyond that, and at this point we are simply saying that nothing that goes wrong is ever our fault, and everything that goes wrong is the other side’s fault. If something goes wrong on our watch, it must be the other side’s fault, or factor that was unforeseeable even by us, or just plain bad luck. We can never be held accountable. However, if something goes wrong on the other side’s watch, then it has to be all their fault, with no allotment for variables. We are the elect and must always be given grace, while the other side is not elect and can receive no grace ever.

    Unfortunately, it’s getting to the point where no one except the hardcore Democratic base believes that. The more pragmatic among that party, and most if not all of the Independents are seeing that this administration was a bad choice. All they can do at this point is mitigate the damage and brace for a real disaster in 8 months, then hope they can pin enough blame on the other side in the two years following to enable whoever runs in 2024 to squeak past whoever the Republicans run.

    • Wow Steve-O! What a fine insightful history lesson and scintillating too, although I have one minor teensy-weensy quibble. You say:
      “This is before we even talk about his behavior towards women, which would not be tolerated from a politician from the other party”

      Given the choice; wouldn’t slo-jo without hesitation select the child under 12 over a fully grown adult female? I mean, the youngster’s ability to resist is considerably inferior relative to an adult female.

      • There’s the reason that one of his nicknames is Pedo Joe. The man cannot keep his hands to himself when it comes to young girls, and I’m surprised he got as far as he did without some righteously angry father giving him the beating of his life.

    • .” Jimmy Carter was a lackluster governor…”
      The Carter presidency will get no defense from me, but I was living in Georgia when he was governor and I thought he did a darned good job.
      The keystone of Carter’s governorship was the reorganization of the notoriously inefficient state government. The massive reform effort took much of his four-year term but produced major structural reform. Sixty-five budgeted and two hundred unbudgeted entities were consolidated into twenty line agencies. The objective of Carter’s reforms was to group similar functions into a single jurisdictional body, saving money by avoiding duplication and improving service delivery. The most radical aspect of his reorganization plan involved the creation of three large departments (Administrative Services, Natural Resources, and Human Resources) that absorbed the responsibilities and functions of sixty-two state agencies.
      Carter also implemented “zero-based budgeting,” which forced state departments and agencies, rather than submitting an aggregate budget figure based on last year’s budget, to start from scratch each year, evaluating and justifying every dollar they requested.
      His education reform package provided funds to support vocational education, reduce class size, and equalize funding among districts in Georgia’s 159 counties. Carter also increased the state’s commitment to early childhood education and launched efforts that eventually led to the adoption of a statewide kindergarten program.
      Carter could not constitutionally succeed himself as Governor (it was later changed) which resulted in his new focus on national politics after 1975.
      I always viewed the Carter presidency as a perfect example of the “Peter Principle,” as he eventually rose past his level of competence to his level of incompetence.

      • I didn’t look at it as the Peter Principal – it always seemed to me that the “deep state” prevented Jimmuh from doing any of the things in a macro way that he had already done in a micro way at the state level. I remember being quite disappointed in his performance.

        • I might say the same thing about George W. Bush. I was in Texas during his tenure and I thought he was a pretty good governor — keeping in mind that the governor’s position was not the most powerful job in the state.
          I recall Bush as governing Texas with a bipartisan bent, and he had lots of Hispanic support. Plus he beat Ann Richards, so how could we not like him?

        • The man was in way over his head as president. Yet, to this day, the Lefty media defends his failed for years as a nice honest guy who just couldn’t catch a break and who no one else would be honest with. This is despite his praise for Lefty dictators. They also talk about him as having the most successful post presidency because of his work with Habitat for Humanity and so on, never mind the fact that he tried to interfere with Bush the elder’s foreign policy at the UN (for which he should have been locked up for violation of the Logan Act), and never mind the fact that he said there were problems with the 2004 election here, but the parallel election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela was completely on the up and up. It’s also complete garbage, since John Quincy Adams went on to return to Congress and achieve great things there including working the Amistad case, and William Howard Taft went on to become Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. On balance, I’d say that makes both of them much more successful after their days in the White House.

    • Great comment Steve!

      I do have two observations: I think the decades for which Biden could have succeeded as president are somewhat narrower. I’m thinking the 1920s, perhaps the 1880s and 90s and, of course, several of the prewar presidents — it is hard to conceive any not doing a better job than most of the men between Jackson and Lincoln. I think the 1950s are perhaps misleading. They seem somewhat placid looking back on them, but I think that perhaps was a function more of Ike’s leadership style than the events. He wasn’t one to make waves or generate chaos (Jack, would you concur?). Plus he had massive ‘street cred’ from WWII and the leadership qualities to get things done.

      Also, thinking about failure, Lincoln is probably a great example. We think of all the generals he appointed that failed, which is absolutely true, but he learned from each of his and their failures. By the end of the war, he’d taught himself to be a pretty decent strategist, better than most of his generals. And, when he finally found a worthy general (Grant), Lincoln stuck with him. He brushed off the petty criticism and didn’t let temporary failures erode his confidence in Grant. One of the more famous quotes by Lincoln about Grant to folks pressing for his removal – “I can’t spare this man–he fights.” I have no doubt Lincoln was thinking about McClellan.

  5. I hope this comment is not too much off topic. Your image at the top of the post, Mr. Marshall, is Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. That set off what could be considered the first mass media event. He wrote that document in Latin, intending it for internal debate among the faculty at the University of Wittenburg. But in the space of a few weeks, printed translations were showing up all across Europe. The printing press was a relatively new technology and it enabled Luther’s thoughts to be broadcast widely and was a significant contributing factor leading to the Protestant Reformation. BTW, since my youngest child was born on Oct. 31, his middle name is Martin.

  6. Another datum — I just finished attending a convention in Williamsburg this weekend. They moved it from January because of Covid (it was canceled in 2021), and their new policy was that per CDC and the governor, etc masking was optional.

    In the vendor’s room I’d say about one third to one half of the folks were wearing masks. Hotel staff were not, generally, from what I saw.

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