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

Some Time Of Day Ethics Warm-Up, As All Temporal Distinctions Blur Into A Single Gray Miasma…

Wait…where the hell did she get that mask????

Oh, what’s the point?

1. When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring Dept. Frannie Skardon of the University of Virginia Law School Class of 2022 serves in the New York National Guard.  When it  was called up by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 17,  UVA was offering its course online courses and her unit allotted her six hours a day to commit to law school studies. But, as she explained in an online petition she has posted,

To my surprise, the [UVA] administration  stated that I am in violation of Academic Policy I.H., which deals with employment while attending Law School. This policy states that “students may not engage in employment in excess of what is compatible with a full-time commitment to the study of law.” As a result of my unit’s activation, the administration has determined that I cannot complete the remainder of the semester.

The school refused to  issue a waiver because Skardon is being paid by the Army while activated, and said she would have to retake all of her classes in Spring 2021. Not only was this spectacularly dumb from a public relations perspective, it was also contrary to what other law schools have done in similar situations. However, after Skardon’s petition was flooded with signatures, and various web sites and, of course, social media excoriated the school, it reversed its decision.

Skardon informed the public in a letter to the editor of Virginia Law Weekly, saying:

“I would like to thank every person who signed my petition, wrote a letter, or shared my story. I am very moved at the outpouring of support and cannot thank each one of you enough. In less than a day, I received over 140 emails and 5,700 signatures.”

Unfortunately, there is a material difference between behaving ethically from the outset and only doing so after being metaphorically pummeled for a wrongful decision and reversing it out of self-interest. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On A Case Study In Combining Bad Journalism With Bad Science

Yes, it’s the New York Times again. I use that paper for the majority of the Ethics Alarm unethical journalism posts for a few reasons. One is that the paper comes to my door every day, so I read a lot of articles that I might miss on the web.  Another is that the Times is the most successful and influential newspaper in the country,  and its work is more closely followed and more criticized than any other paper, and most news sources generally. The Times also advertises itself as the nation’s “paper of record,” placing itself on a pedestal with standards of integrity and reliability that it is obligated to meet….and does not. Finally, the paper is unacceptably biased in its political coverage and editorial product.

Today’s “Where America Didn’t Stay Home Even as the Virus Spread”  is far from then times at its worst. It is, however, unacceptable and unethical. I’m not even in disagreement with the piece’s main thesis, which is that the regions that have not imposed shelter at home restrictions on the public are at more risk of exploding Wuhan virus cases. That makes sense; that’s even obvious. However, the Times’s main tool in making a case was the map below, which it explained this way:

“Stay-at-home orders have nearly halted travel for most Americans, but people in Florida, the Southeast and other places that waited to enact such orders have continued to travel widely, potentially exposing more people as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates, according to an analysis of cellphone location data by The New York Times. The divide in travel patterns, based on anonymous cellphone data from 15 million people, suggests that Americans in wide swaths of the West, Northeast and Midwest have complied with orders from state and local officials to stay home.”

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

Pandemic Ethics Dilemma: The Universities And Colleges Need To Keep Their Students’ Money, But They Are No Longer Earning It.

A class action lawsuit has been filed against the Arizona Board of Regents, the governing board for Arizona’s three public universities, because the three schools have refused to refund room, board and campus fees to students who were told to leave campus because of the Wuhan virus. Like virtually all US colleges and universities, Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, moved their classes online  for the remainder of the Spring  semester. Students who lived on-campus were either told to move out or encouraged to do so. Yet, the  lawsuit says, the Arizona Board of Regents has refused to offer refunds for the unused portion of the students’ room and board and their campus fees. The lawsuit seeks payment of the prorated, unused amounts of room and board and fees that the class members paid but were unable to use.

How can the schools maintain that it is ethical for them to do this? I understand that having to refund the money will be disastrous for them, but they are literally keeping advance payments for services that the schools will no longer provide. I expect to see more such suits, and on the basis of law, equity, ethics and common sense, I don’t see how the institutions can prevail in them. Continue reading

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

Good afternoon.

Stop blaming my favorite animal, the pangolin, or the so-called “scaly anteater,” for the pandemic!

That’s a tree pangolin above in a defensive posture. Ever since the nexus for the outbreak of COVID-19 was traced back to a wet market in Hubei province, scientists have been looking for the virus’s heritage.  It’s possible that the virus emerged in a colony of horseshoe bats in Yunnan, a province that borders the south-east Asian country of Myanmar. But some fingers are also pointing at the pangolin, which was once believed to have bats in its ancestry. The animal, like others that American wouldn’t recognize, is the most trafficked beast in the world due to the supposed health benefits of its scales, with most of that traffic ending in China. A search for the “missing link” in the chain of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has uncovered two close cousins of the variety of coronavirus that started the pandemic in Wuhan in pangolins smuggled into China. Not THE virus, however.  Here’s a photo of a pangolin unfurled:

1. It is outrageous that a U.S. newspaper would include this sentence…From an article about the joys of Randolph Scott Westerns by Times film critic Ben Kinegsberg: “The depiction of Native Americans as horse-eating, husband-killing savages doesn’t sit well in modern eyes, and the name of Henry Silva’s character in “The Tall T” is so offensive it cannot be printed.”

Well, it has to printed somewhere, or the information itself has been permanently erased! If a newspaper is going to start  purging words, names, history  and facts, where does it stop? I’ve been trying to imagine what name could justify the Times refusing to reveal it, other than “Voldemort.” What could it be? Let’s check the Internet Movie Database (the film is “The Tall T“)… Continue reading

The 1619 Project And Ethics Villains Nicole Hannah-Jones And The New York Times

This disturbing story is signature significance.

The New York Times Magazine published its 1619 Project, named for the date of the first arrival of Africans on American soil, in August or 2019 with great fanfare and self congratulation. It purported to be a traditional wisdom-shaking view of America’s founding, placing slavery at the center of American political, social, and economic institutions, not a revolutionary desire by a remarkable group of visionaries to establish a culture rooted in human liberty, Time reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones  championed and conceived the  project, and authored the introduction to the epic, writing in part, “Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.”

Hannah-Jones was candid about her objectives. “When my editor asks me, like, what’s your ultimate goal for the project, my ultimate goal is that there’ll be a reparations bill passed.” She was, she said, thrilled that  people told her that they feel “they are understanding the architecture of their country in a way that they had not.”

From the beginning, the Times publication was clearly an ideological enterprise, and squarely within the paper’s partisan mission. Because that mission is shared by most of the most influential media sources, including NPR, it was almost universally praised. That endorsement was not restricted to journalism, however.

For decades, colleges and universities, bolstered by popular culture and propaganda from the mainstream media, have immersed rising generations in the narrative  that America  is an oppressive,  white supremacist culture in need of fundamental reform. The 1619 Project offered an accompanying school lesson plan for junior high and high-schoolers, and since its publication, teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (of course) taught parts of its curriculum. Just last month the  Buffalo Public Schools announced their district will “infuse 1619 Project resources into the mainstream English and Social Studies . . . at grades 7-12.” Montgomery County, Maryland, and the Chicago Public Schools have followed.

The deconstruction of American pride and its origins as a nation founded on values rather than nationalistic and economic objectives is an essential predicate for so many of the Left’s plans for the country. Is this assessment unfair (by Arthur Milihk)? Continue reading