Afternoon Ethics Update, 4/8/2020: It’s A Wonderful Day To Think About Ethics!

—even if so many people are not.

And can’t.

Today is my wife’s birthday. All we can do to celebrate is to be together, and be grateful that we found each other, and are still together, a miracle of chaos theory in so many ways. She is, and will always be  my inspiration, my rock, my balance, the one who constantly keeps me from spinning out of control, and the love of my life.

1.  Pandemic ethics and religion. It’s unfortunate when religions misbehave during catastrophes:

  • The Pope made the fatuous comment in an interview that the pandemic offers an opportunity to slow down the rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. “We did not respond to the partial catastrophes. Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted? Who speaks now of the floods?” the Pope said. “I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.”

Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Maybe it sounds better in Italian.

  • Yesterday, I turned on the TV only to see a live broadcast from one of the evangelical mega-churches, packed to the rafters, nobody wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Irresponsible and infuriating.

About 44 percent of likely voters in the United States see the coronavirus pandemic and economic meltdown as either a wake-up call to faith, a sign of God’s coming judgment or both, according to a poll commissioned by the Joshua Fund, an evangelical group run by Joel C. Rosenberg, who writes about the end of the world, and conducted last week by McLaughlin & Associates, pollsters for President Trump and other Republicans.

David Jeremiah, a pastor who has been one of President Trump’s informal evangelical advisers, asked in a sermon recently if the coronavirus was biblical prophecy, and called the pandemic “the most apocalyptic thing that has ever happened to us.”

No, it’s really not. This “end of days” stuff is either hysteria from the ignorant whose knowledge of world and U.S. history begins in 2008, or it’s worse, deliberate scare-mongering by church leaders to goose membership. Yes, I know a recent earthquake in Utah even shook the Salt Lake Temple so hard that the golden trumpet fell from the angel Moroni’s right hand. That is exactly as significant a portent of the Apocalypse as Chris Sale having Tommy John surgery.

In other words, incredibly significant.

After I get this post up, I think I’ll go watch “The Omen”—the good one, with Gregory Peck. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2020: Another KABOOM!, Two Deranged Op-Eds, And Kansas City Police Adopt The Nuremberg Defense

Feeling blue, beleaguered and dispirited: time for my favorite “Good morning” video again:

1. Yes, it’s another KABOOM! to begin the day. The same critics who attack the President every day for his response to the virus, whatever he does or says, have been alternately praising China for its handling of the pandemic or defending it. Now look at these photos  from two days ago, April 4, showing Chinese citizens heading for the Huangshan mountain park to enjoy the great outdoors, as CNN put it.

2. Today in leadership ethics…on this date in 1841, President William Henry Harrison, then the oldest man by far to take the Presidential oath of office (America take note),  died after just 31 days from a cold he caught by grandstanding to show he wasn’t so old (he refused to wear a top coat in freezing weather, and delivered what is still the longest inaugural address in our history). He was the first President to die in office. He also died after being elected in a year ending with a zero,  launching a creepy 120 year tradition of every POTUS elected in such a year also dying in office (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Harding, FDR, JFK)  until Ronald Reagan beat it, though just barely.

Vice President John Tyler was sworn into office amidst mass confusion: the Constitution was unclear about what happens when a President dies. It directed that in case of the President’s death “the Powers and Duties of the said office” “shall devolve upon the Vice President” until a new President is elected. Here the most unlikely of leaders, an obscure figure from the opposition party (Tyler was a Southern slave-holding Democrat  put on the Whig ticket, maybe because “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” scanned) who had no constituency, looked like Ichabod Crane…

…and who later joined the Confederate cabinet, made a bold decision that changed American history in too many ways to imagine.

While many experts and legal scholars argued that he was only a temporary, acting-POTUS until a special election could be held, Tyler decreed that he was, in fact, the President, and would serve out Harrison’s full term. Congress couldn’t figure out how to stop him, and thus the United States, by accident and the unilateral decree of an otherwise minor political figure, adopted the smooth manner of transition that has served it so well. It wasn’t until the 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967,  that there was anything in the Constitution saying directly that the Vice President permanently assumes the job and finishes out the term upon the death, resignation or removal of the President.

Fun fact:  President Tyler, who was born in 1790, has a grandson living in Virginia. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Jr., born in 1924, is 96 years old. I once saw him from afar when he was still living at the Tyler plantation, dubbed Sherwood Forest. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2020: Letting The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good, And Other Blunders

Why is today unlike any other day?

1. What’s wrong with this picture? This, courtesy of ABC News, was the scene on a New York City subway yesterday:

My question is this: how can everyone be cheering Governor Cuomo’s leadership during the pandemic crisis when this is still going on? I heard Cuomo say, in one of his briefings, “You can’t stop public transportation. You just can’t.” Yet if you are going to allow the above scene all day, every day in your state’s largest city, why bother with the rest of the measures? Just wall off the Big Apple and let everyone get sick.

2. And speaking of New York…and while we’re justly bashing China for all the lies and disinformation,  this blogger finds the charts , models and projections showing how the health care system will be overwhelmed by April 15 puzzling, and asks, Continue reading

Comment Of The Day : “Thank God This Miserable Week Is Over Ethics Review, 3/27/2020: Of Pangolins, Pandemics And Pronouns”

Today’s wet market special: bats! Yum-yum.

Let me introduce the Comment of the Day by once again acknowledging the consistently excellent contributions to Ethics Alarms made every day by the commentariat here. I know a lot of people who don’t read the comment sections of blogs and websites; heck, I usually don’t, and the reason I don’t is that they are almost uniformly horrible and depressing. Horrible, because even in the cases of some superb blogs, they are reliable pits of name-calling and hackneyed talking points I have read elsewhere, full of poor reasoning and biased, lazy opinions lacking support or genuine understanding. Depressing, because I know they are representative of the general public, perhaps even positively so, since the real mouth-breathers don’t read about substantive topics at all, and couldn’t write about them literately if they did.

I know I complain too much about the traffic here. Since what has been called “The Great Exodus,” when those slowly succumbing to Trump Derangement left in a huff because I insisted on refusing to join what is tagged here as the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, and Facebook arbitrarily and mysteriously knocked the pins out of a major source of circulation and growth by banning links to the blog, my hopes of reaching a sufficient audience  to allow some income-producing activities here have been dashed. I don’t do this for profit (obviously), but some income would help–as you might expect, this is especially on my mind now. I was this close to topping the 5000 views a day level that is the minimum required to monetize a blog at the end of 2016, then our angry progressive friends left, and even 4000 a day is usually a faint hope. Still, I can’t complain about the quality of the comments, which, if anything, is stronger than ever, as is the variety of views and topics that arrives through them. I really should be grateful for that, and stop bitching. Together we have a superb product, getting better after a decade.

Humble Talent is one of the reliable stars here, with a unique outlook and a no-nonsense style. Before I started annually failing to deliver The Best and Worst of Ethics Awards (2019 was the third straight flop; maybe next year…), he had been a recipient of Commenter of the Year.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, : “Thank God This Miserable Week Is Over Ethics Review, 3/27/2020: Of Pangolins, Pandemics And Pronouns”:

We don’t have any conception under God how many people are actually affected. We don’t know the morbidity rates. We don’t even know the number of people who have died from the Wuhan Flu.

I used to say that we knew the numerator when it came to deaths, and that the percentages that we were hearing were worst case scenarios, because the denominator was always going to be much, much higher, so the rate was almost certainly artificially inflated. That remains true when talking about cases coming out of first world democracies… We know, roughly, how many people died from Flu related complications, but we don’t know how many people have had the Flu. For weeks now, Canadians have been told that if they’re experiencing symptoms, but those symptoms are not serious enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room, they need to stay home. Either they have it and we don’t want it walking around outside, or they don’t have it and we don’t want them bringing exciting new complications into our medical centers. The massaging in the states has been mixed, but there’s a lot of similar sentiment out there. The vast, vast majority of people who think they have the Flu won’t be tested, and there is a large slice of the pie that get the Flu but never develop symptoms.

And then you have third world, tin-pot communist dictatorships like China, Information Black Holes like Russia and places that don’t have sufficient medical facilities like most of Africa. Who knows what the numbers are out of places like this? I’ve seen chilling images and video coming out of China, pictures of of cremation packages stacked up outside of funeral parlors because they ran out of room inside. I don’t know if that’s representative, but I think it’s likely. 40 million cell phone users have been cut off from the rest of the world in the heart of China, and China has not reported a single Flu related death in a week. Continue reading

High Noon Ethics Showdown, 4/2/2020: Reality Dawns

Yyyyyyup!

Interestingly, the usually busy street bordering on our cul de sac looks just like this right now, except Gary Cooper isn’t anywhere to be seen…

1. What? The U.S. does NOT have more Wuhan virus cases than China? How can that be??? Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), hardly a knee-jerk Trump apologist, who sits on the Senate committee that deals with classified intelligence, said the Chinese Communist Party continues to lie about the death toll from the virus. He has said information he has viewed shows the United States does not surpass China in terms of deaths. This was obvious to anyone not actively trying to use the spread of the illness for partisan advantage, but it’s nice to have confirmation.

“The claim that the United States has more coronavirus deaths than China is false,” Sasse said yesterday. “Without commenting on any classified information, this much is painfully obvious: The Chinese Communist Party has lied, is lying, and will continue to lie about coronavirus to protect the regime. Beijing’s garbage propaganda shouldn’t be taken seriously by the World Health Organization, by independent journalists, or by the American epidemiologists who are going to beat this terrible virus.”

This, of course, further impugns the news media. Stephen Kruiser wrote,

“Every day, they find new ways to reinforce the “Enemy of People” status that they have been earning every day in the Trump era. They’ve routinely scolded anyone who accurately refers to the virus as being of Chinese origin, screaming “RACISM!” as if they were getting paid each time they uttered or typed the word. What has been most insidious has been the parroting of whatever China reports about the virus. Almost everyone in American media has been acting as ChiCom public relations lackeys, taking everything that the Chinese government says and passing it along without questioning any of it.”

Continue reading

April Fools Free Zone Ethics Warm-Up: Everything You Read Here Is Real, Unfortunately.

Happy Day Like Any Other Day.

Well, not “happy,” exactly…

I’m on record on Ethics Alarms as detesting April Fools Day, as well as regarding April Fools stunts by professionals, like lawyers and journalists, unethical though usually not sanctionable. It should be a children’s day, like Halloween, but adults are determined to co-opt all such days, ruining it for everybody.

1. I lost a good friend yesterday. It’s more than that really: the human race lost one of its finest representatives. His name was Dennis Nollette; he was a lawyer, a writer and a bon vivant, but most of he was one of those amazing people who made you feel good just by being around him. I knew him in laws school, where he was my room mate for a year; he also was a member of the casts of the three productions I staged when I was a student. Since graduation, I think I saw Dennis six times, never for long, but with him it seemed like the time melted away: he was always the same, always emitting his powerful positive energy, optimism, and love for those around him, and I always felt as close to him as ever.

And just like that, he’s gone. There was no warning; it all happened so fast. All I have now is an overwhelming feeling of loss, along with an acknowledgment of my duty to let as many people as possible know that he was here, that he made the world a better place by being here, and that those of us who remains should follow his example by making the best out of life, and encouraging others to do the same by our example. That was Dennis’s genius, and attention must be paid.

2. Maybe the Constitution IS a suicide pact…Justice Robert H. Jackson’s  famous line in his dissenting opinion in Terminiello v. Chicago, a 1949 free speech case, has come to mind many times in the past few weeks, as the news media and online sources have churned out some of the most irresponsible and outrageous essays in memory, many of them about how this period will “change America forever,” usually in undesirable ways.  90% of these screeds are nonsense and based on flawed reasoning. My current leader for the worst idea is this piece, by conservative gadfly Roger Simon: “Should We Postpone the Presidential Election One Year?”

It’s an incompetent question. Not only shouldn’t we, we can’t, and any suggestion from Republicans that we ought to even think about it would be instantly condemned as the attempted dictatorship by Donald Trump that Big Lie #3 has warned us about.  We also know that if the President did get an extra year, it would spent all of it defending himself against one impeachment attempt after another. Continue reading

Having Previously Concentrated Only On Idiotic Reasons Not To Call The Contagion By The Name It Deserves, The Deranged Settle On A Vile And Unethical One

I have managed to post twice about the name game, and the ridiculous effort to find some way to justify not identifying the Wuhan virus by its place of origin, a campaign led by, naturally enough, its place of origin. The first post focused on the idea that calling a Chinese virus a Chinese virus was “racist,” a concept so devoid of reason and logic that it made my brain hurt.

The fact that the concept was enthusiastically embraced by such proven blights on the political scene as Rep. Omar was  one major clue that  dastardly motives were involved. This was a pretty much flat out resort to Big Lie #4 in the “resistance” Big Lie tool box, that one being “Trump is a racist/ white supremacist.” It was a short post, because there was no legitimate argument to rebut. Continue reading