Comment Of The Day: “Mid-Day Ethics Stimulus, 3/31/2020: Dunces, Heroes, Hacks And More”

Veteran commenter Michael  Erjecito’s comment on another post about the pandemic included the line, “When this emergency ends, we will give back all powers, without exception.” Chris Marschner used that statement as his departure point in this Comment of the Day on a separate EA post, Item #4 under the title above, which involved Governor Ralph Northam’s “order” restricting the freedoms of  Virginians. Since I had started a post on the topic of draconian government restrictions that are Constitutionally questionable, I was grateful to see Chris had attacked it with his usual verve.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Mid-Day Ethics Stimulus, 3/31/2020: Dunces, Heroes, Hacks And More”:

I am beginning to believe this event is a government dress rehearsal for a much more draconian event later on. One must test the limits of what the public is willing to endure from governmental decrees lest we see the people charging the statehouses with torches and pitchforks.

Ok, enough of my melodrama. But the quote above is indicative of the risk of a different type of loss well after this virus disappears.

I keep hearing that Trump ignores science or that he relies on hunches and not data to make quality decisions. Well at 8 pm yesterday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) issued the stay at home order or face fines of $5,000 and/or a year in jail. In that decree, there is absolutely no mention as to the scientific data that he used to trigger the order and thus there is no data to indicate when he would lift the order.

 There is also no specific data-driven rationale for a Stay At Home order when all types of recreational activities are allowed as long as they are in groups of 10 or fewer. How exactly does the data suggest that grocery stores filled with hundreds of people crowding the aisles will cause less of a problem than a non-essential service like a mom and pop jewelry store or a scuba shop that usually have fewer than 10 people in it any given time? Why is it that the data supports Home Depot and Walmart being allowed to sell non-essential goods because they are allowed to stay open because they offer other essential goods such as repair items, food, and medicine but a comic book bike shop or video-store must shutter its business?

My point is that for all the claims that decisions are data driven I would wager most decisions are driven by political calculus not necessarily on epidemiological considerations.

Furthermore, if we are to use data to drive decisions, that data must be understood by all in order to ensure that the people subject to the restrictions imposed will know if the government is abusing its governing powers. The terms of these orders should spell out specifically the triggers that cause regulatory restrictions and when those restrictions MUST be rescinded; these restrictions cannot be open ended and without definition.

The only data that we hear is the 2.2 million deaths that could have occurred had nothing been done, and Dr. Fauci’s equivocating statement that maybe as many as 200,000 might die – but don’t hold him to that—and, the ongoing death watch clocks prominently displayed on all the network news shows and web search engines. We never hear why this decision is made or why we are not doing something that some believe might be helpful. Tell me: are the anti-malarial drugs something to be considered as a treatment or a prophylaxes; neither or both? I suppose drugs are worthwhile and can be used off label with some effectiveness so long as they are not suggested by Donald Trump.

We cannot use infection growth rates as growth rates as a trigger because they may be much higher initially with low absolute numbers. Going from 10 cases to 30 cases an increase of 20 cases is a 300% increase but going from 100 cases to 120 cases is only a 20% increase. Then the issue is where are the cases occurring? Should a county with few infections be subject to the same restrictions as a highly populated hot spot?

I do wish the media would stop confusing the public by switching between growth rates, absolute numbers and per capita values. When the press states that on a per capita basis the US lags other nations in testing, that suggests we are not doing enough even if we have tested three times the amount of others. Growth rates don’t mean beans if you don’t have a basis from which to measure. Growth rates and absolute values must be used in tandem to make them meaningful.

Many in the media and some within our commentariat believe there has been an abysmal failure at the federal level to adequately plan for such a pandemic. NO, the Governors and legislatures of the respective states have been an abysmal failure at preparing for such an emergency. In my state, Maryland, we have the Office of Emergency Preparedness.  (https://preparedness.health.maryland.gov/Pages/About.aspx)

How prepared is Maryland Governor Hogan?

On the Resources page there is not one mention of the Covid-19 virus under infectious threats. We are still mentioning Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola, and Zika but all is quiet on the Chinese Flu front.

Is the reference to MERS a bigoted and racist term? I did not consider the others to have racist connotations because how many Americans know Ebola is named after a river in the sub-Saharan Africa and the others after other places in Africa. Our governor seems to be at odds with his own departments. We are prepared for any eventuality according to our state team. They say so!

https://preparedness.health.maryland.gov/Pages/Resources.aspx:

IS THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH PREPARED? Yes! The Department of Health Office of Preparedness and Response prepares in a variety of ways:

• Maryland Influenza Plan and Pandemic Influenza Plan
• Pandemic influenza exercises for emergency personnel
• Partnering with local, state, federal, and private agencies to prepare for, prevent, and lessen the impact of a flu pandemic
• Maintaining a stockpile of antiviral medications and medical supplies ( WHERE ARE THEY?????)

From their web pages we find that their preparedness program is merely a funnel for federal funds.

The mission of the Hospital Preparedness Program is to support and enhance the ability of hospitals and health care systems to provide effective care and save lives during emergencies. The Office of Preparedness and Response receives annual federal funding to advance these goals and objectives. The Maryland Department of Health awards these funds in the form of grants to our health care system partners across the state (including hospitals, free-standing emergency departments, emergency medical services, community health centers, and home care and hospice agencies). Health care system partners utilize the Hospital Preparedness Program funds to enhance their ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies that pose a threat to the health and safety of the community. 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

Mid-Day Ethics Stimulus, 3/31/2020: Dunces, Heroes, Hacks And More

I’m stimulated!

And you?

1. Maybe not the wisest move, but ethical… Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn) shared  his cell phone number on Twitter for anyone who needed to discuss their fears about the impact of the Wuhan virus. “If [you’re] feeling overwhelmed or scared and just want to talk to somebody give me a call,”  said. “We will get through this together.”

He added, “I know everybody’s under a lot of pressure with what’s going on with the Coronavirus. If you’re feeling all that pressure and it’s getting to you…I know in the last little bit here we’ve had nine people in our community taking their life. That’s a horrible, horrible thing, somebody taking their own life. If you feel like you’re going to hurt yourself or maybe hurt somebody around you, why don’t ya’ll just call me. Let’s talk.”

2.  I know this is an unpopular position, but it’s not the first time I’ve explained it. CNN’s Brooke Baldwin was overcome with emotion as  she interviewed a woman who’ had been unable to say goodbye to her mother in person before she died of the Wuhan Virus. Baldwin is an unprofessional hack. In recent years, alleged professional journalists, especially on CNN, have allowed their emotions to influence their reporting. This results in a form of editorializing, and the practice demonstrates how much today’s journalists see themselves as performers rather than objective communicators of information.

Admittedly, this kind of interview is designed to bring out the Kleenex,  but CNN lets its hosts display grief when a favorite candidate loses (like Hillary Clinton), glee, when a figure they don’t like is abused (Carol Costello chuckling at a recording of Sarah Palin’s daughter breaking down)  or anger when a political figure  doesn’t toe the progressive line. (Don Lemon, more or less constantly.) It’s hackery.

3. And today’s Covidiot is...Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of The River Church in Tampa, a so-called “mega church” that held a service over the weekend in which over a thousand worshipers  were “squeezed in like sardines,” as one reporter described it. Howard-Browne had said that he would defy the restrictions imposed by the state and county to stem the threat of the  worldwide pandemic. “We are not stopping anything. I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place,” the reverend said.

Following the service, a warrant for his arrest was issued. He is now in custody.

4.  Hmmmm...Here are Governor Ralph Northam’s exceptions to his “order” regarding the stay-at-home restrictions in Virginia:

a. Obtaining food, beverages, goods, or services as permitted in Executive
Order 53;

b. Seeking medical attention, essential social services, governmental
services, assistance from law enforcement, or emergency services;

c. Taking care of other individuals, animals, or visiting the home of a family
member;

d. Traveling required by court order or to facilitate child custody, visitation,
or child care;

e. Engaging in outdoor activity, including exercise, provided individuals
comply with social distancing requirements;

f. Traveling to and from one’s residence, place of worship, or work;

g. Traveling to and from an educational institution;

h. Volunteering with organizations that provide charitable or social services; and

i. Leaving one’s residence due to a reasonable fear for health or safety, at the direction of law enforcement, or at the direction of another government agency.

Aside from the fact that some of this would be vulnerable to constitutional challenges—those will come later—why is traveling to and from churches permitted, if church services are per se prohibited? Why is traveling to and from schools an exception, if all schools have been ordered to close? Why is visiting a relative permitted, but not a close friend? A best friend? Your only friend? Do only blood relatives count? In-laws? Seventh cousins twice removed?

The order seems arbitrary and hastily composed. Laws that infringe on civil rights cannot afford to be like that, if they want to withstand eventual court challenges, or even if they just want to be coherent.

5. Ugh. Mike Lindell, the My Pillow infomercial hustler whose TV ads have been banned at my house, was a guest at the White House Task Force press briefing yesterday.  He explained that his company was  devoting 75% of its manufacturing capacity into making face masks. Then he asked if he could add something, and President Trump said “Okay.”

Well, what choice did he have? The guy has volunteered to do a public service. He has cultivated the image of a nice person. If the President had said, “No, Mike. Sorry. We’re moving on,” he would have looked ungrateful. However that is exactly what Trump should have said. It’s not worth the risk.

Embodying a worst case scenario, Lindell said,

God gave us grace on November 8th, 2016, to change the course we were on. God had been taken out of our schools and lives. A nation had turned its back on God. And I encourage you: Use this time at home to get — home to get back in the Word, read our Bibles, and spend time with our families. Our President gave us so much hope where, just a few short months ago, we had the best economy, the lowest unemployment, and wages going up. It was amazing. With our great President, Vice President, and this administration and all the great people in this country praying daily, we will get through this and get back to a place that’s stronger and safer than ever.

Ethics foul. It was not Lindell’s place to engage in religious grandstanding and a political endoresment, however sincere it might be. This wasn’t a political rally, nor a time for religious proselytizing. It also, once again, painted a target on the President, who responded,

That’s very nice. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mike. Appreciate it…. I did not know he was going to do that, but he’s a friend of mine, and I do appreciate it. Thank you, Mike, very much.

At that point, I don’t know what else he could say.

 

Everybody SING! “How Do You Treat A Problem Like Joe Biden?”

This would be an early song from the obscure, unfinished and strangely prescient Rodgers and Stephen King  musical, “The Sound of Panic,” the draft manuscript of which was recently discovered in a Maine landfill.  The Democratic nomination process is slipping into ethics train wreck territory, if it isn’t there already. But it’s an astounding story. It would make a great musical, but one more like “Sweeney Todd” than “The Sound of Music.”

When I first set eyes on Joe Biden after a couple of years, when he emerged in 2015 to run for the Democratic nomination, I was shocked at how old and enervated he appeared. When I heard him speak, I realized that he was slipping from his barely tolerable career-long muddle-headedness into senility or dementia. Reaching this conclusion required no special perception on my part; it merely required an absence of denial. I could not believe, and wrote as much here, that Biden could ever be the Democratic nominee. No matter how unpromising the field of candidates was—and it was historically awful—voters couldn’t possibly vote for “Slow Joe,” as our perpetually juvenile POTUS cruelly dubbed him.

Yet here we are. Biden, having been the beneficiary of the besieged “moderates” of the now thoroughly radicalized Democratic Party coalescing behind a single representative as its best chance to defeat President Trump (essentially the Democrats have become the “Hate Trump Party,” quickly pivoting its position on anything to the opposite of whatever he advocates or does) is now broadcasting from a bunker somewhere during the Wuhan virus emergency, reminding everyone sentient of the carnage to come in November after Biden quadruples the number of doomsday gaffes in all of US Presidential debate history.

Think about it: a single moment of brain lock sunk Gerald Ford in 1976, when he inexplicably said that Poland wasn’t an Iron Curtain country. Then, in 1980, Jimmy Carter caused America to doubt his seriousness and honesty when he cited his daughter Amy, then 9, as an expert on nuclear armaments while debating Ronald Reagan. How do Democrats think the public will respond when Biden suddenly starts reciting a recipe for Rice Krispie Squares in response to a question about immigration? Even Trump Hate has its limits for those not in the late stages of the disease. Admittedly, the number of those is staggering, with total U.S. cases exceeding cases of the Wuhan Virus in China even if China wasn’t faking its numbers.

Continue reading

Pandemic Ethics Overflow, Including The Funniest Story So Far, And Newly Certified Big Lie #9

1. The funniest pandemic-related story comes out of Australia, and it goes in the “Scientific incompetence” files. Or maybe the “Sure, we should always trust the judgment of scientists” file. From The Guardian:

An Australian astrophysicist has been admitted to hospital after getting four magnets stuck up his nose in an attempt to invent a device that stops people touching their faces during the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr Daniel Reardon, a research fellow at a Melbourne university, was building a necklace that sounds an alarm on facial contact, when the mishap occurred on Thursday night.

The 27 year-old astrophysicist, who studies pulsars and gravitational waves, said he was trying to liven up the boredom of self-isolation with the four powerful neodymium magnets….“I had a part that detects magnetic fields. I thought that if I built a circuit that could detect the magnetic field, and we wore magnets on our wrists, then it could set off an alarm if you brought it too close to your face…

So he made millions of people around the world slap their foreheads in amazement.

2. About those idiots who drank the fish tank cleaner: The emerging facts, after so many headlines blamed the husband’s death on the President’s misinformation, show this was more fake news. The Arizona woman who said that she and her 68-year-old husband ingested a substance used to clean fish tanks after hearing President Donald Trump enthuse about the potential value of chloroquine (but not fish tank ccleaner constaining the chemical)  as a cure for the Wuhan Virus is a Democrats, opposes Trump, and has given thousands of dollars to Democratic groups and candidates over the last two years. In late February, she gave to a Democratic PAC, the 314 Action Fund, that is part of the  “pro-science resistance.”It has even used the death of her husband to attack the White House.

Now the surviving fish tank-cleaner gourmet admits that she and her husband were both Democrats, not Trump supporters. But she  told NBC News that she took the fish tank cleaner to follow Trump’s advice.  “We saw Trump on TV—every channel—and all of his buddies and that this was safe,” she said last week. “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure.” Naturally, nobody checked her story: it was too good an opportunity to get Trump.

Now the women admits that she heard about the potential benefits of chloroquine, an antimalarial drug, in news reports, and decided at the “spur of the moment” to try  it “We weren’t big supporters of [Trump], but we did see that they were using it in China and stuff,” Wanda told the Free Beacon. “And we just made a horrible, tragic mistake,” she said. “It was stupid, and it was horrible, and we should have never done it. But it’s done and now I’ve lost my husband….We didn’t think it would kill us. We thought if anything it would help us ‘cus that’s what we’ve been hearing on the news.”

But at least she was able to spin the story so the  the news media would falsely say that the President was responsible for them drinking fish tank cleaner, so it wasn’t a total loss. Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics, 3/30/2020: As Another Fun Week Looms…

Yes, I’ve been thinking about this episode (“The Shinning”) of “The Simpsons” a lot lately…

Of course, in my case, I’m writing on the walls, “No baseball, no seminars make Jack Go Crazy!”

1. And speaking of people going crazy: the various anti-gun mayors and governors who are arguing that gun stores are “non-essential” are displaying their irrational Second Amendment phobia, much like Ohio and Texas attempting to prohibit abortions as “non-essential” surgery. The ability to self-arm is more essential at times of social disruption than usual. Looting and attacks on homes are just around the corner as resources dwindle and people become desperate, and we already have plenty of evidence that irresponsible, anti-social and unstable members of the public are not as rare as we might wish. The comparisons of the Wuhan virus crisis to zombie scenarios (as in “World War Z”) are invitations to hysteria, but in one respect the analogy is apt. Guns are useful tools to have around in both situations.

2. Good. From CNN:

The Justice Department has started to probe a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of the sharp market downturn stemming from the spread of coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the matter. The inquiry, which is still in its early stages and being done in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has so far included outreach from the FBI to at least one lawmaker, Sen. Richard Burr, seeking information about the trades, according to one of the sources. Public scrutiny of the lawmakers’ market activity has centered on whether members of Congress sought to profit from the information they obtained in non-public briefings about the virus epidemic.

And if this causes the Republicans to lose control of the Senate, they deserve it. Burr, in particular, should resign now. He should not be allowed to run for re-election.

3. I would think that this is a slippery slope we don’t want to get on… Continue reading

From The Wuhan Virus Ethics Train Wreck Files: What Would We Do Without Ethicists?

Cut it out, you two! A medical ethicist says you’re being unethical!

TIME magazine has a feature up called, “‘Is Ordering Takeout Unethical?’ A Medical Ethicist Answers Some of the Most Common Moral Questions Around Coronavirus.”  Yes, res ipsa loquitur: the article is almost as absurd as the title. Moral questions are not ethics questions, you dolts. How could ordering take-out be unethical?  Why would you ask a medical ethicist about ordering food?  With all the real medical ethics questions facing the country, that’s what TIME thinks is most important question? Why would a medical ethicist agree to be involved in such idiocy? Continue reading