The Pandemic Post I Never Wrote

[This post is dedicated to Michael Ejercito.]

For months, veteran prolific Ethics Alarms commenter Michael Ejercito peppered the blog with various versions of the same question: “When are you going to finish “The Pandemic Creates a Classic and Difficult Ethics Conflict…”? He was referring to this post, which went up way back in May of 2020. The rest of the title was “…But The Resolution Is Clear.” It was designated as Part I, with a Part II supposedly coming soon that would explain what that resolution was and why. It never arrived.

Stalling, I posted a Prelude to Part II. It was so long and covered so much territory that I doubt anyone read it all the way to the end (except Michael). It didn’t inspire a single comment. Here’s a precis...

No, I am not satisfied with the current draft of Part II, but I trust it’s obvious what the resolution referred to is. The lock-down has to end, and before vaccines, cures, or adequate medicine are available….It is quite striking: the arguments for continuing the lockdown indefinitely are almost entirely authored by progressives, and are without exception characterized by bad logic, emotionalism, manipulated facts, biased analysis, fearmongering, and suspect motives. The majority of the arguments for opening up the economy soon are markedly more logical, unemotional, and based on sound statistics and analysis…

It is not “plausible” that the pandemic will continue forever; pandemics don’t. And indeed, if they did, it would be an irrefutable reason to open up now. Freedom has always had a price…

…As I discussed in Part I, health experts focus almost exclusively on health. Health is not the only priority involved in the policy trade-offs involving the lockdown. The health experts don’t care about the other issues—literally, they don’t care—because it isn’t their job to care about the economy, or unemployment, or ruined careers and diminished quality of life. They should care about increased suicides during depressions, and inadequate preventative health care, and the deaths those and other consequences of the lockdown will cause, [or]…the U.S. having a catastrophic expansion of its national debt… !

…Right: nobody knows how it will play out. We do know, however, how it will play out if we lock down the economy much longer, never mind until there’s a vaccine…On this 75th Anniversary of V-E Day, it shouldn’t be hard to understand that lost lives can be acceptable when the most rational, responsible policies involve unavoidable risk.

But “Part II,” when it arrived six months later, still didn’t deliver the promised resolution. Except for the (again, long) introduction, in fact, it was a dud, but a dud that illustrated the problem with the topic. I wrote about the non-media coverage of a Johns Hopkins study that seemed to indicate that the despite the daily lists of pandemic deaths, the total deaths had not varied significantly from the previous year. As it turned out, the study was flawed, and its conclusions were not supported, though the Ethics Alarms indictment of the bias and partisan agenda indicated by the news media’s lack of coverage still applies.

So what was going to be Part II was then going to be Part III, and again stalling, I wrote a prelude to that as well. This one was mercifully short, and endorsed a statement by then President Trump as the Ethics Quote of the Century. He had said via Twitter in October, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” The post concluded,

“President Trump is among the Americans I would view most unlikely to utter an ethical statement, much less a great one, but this was a great statement, essential, inspirational, and right. I assume this is sufficient notice of what the conclusion of Part III will be.”

But there was no Part III, much to Michael’s disappointment and annoyance.

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Unethical Tweet Of The Month: The ACLU

I think it is fair to conclude at this point (if it was not already obvious) that the American Civil Liberties Union has abandoned its original mission of being a neutral and non-partisan guardian of individual rights to being one more activist political tool of the Left. Its hostility toward transparency for school curricula marks a 180 decree turnaround for the ACLU, which has traditionally  argued for government transparency in all its activities, including public school education.

One more time, the corrupting influence here is race and “social justice,” which increasingly are regarded as taking priority over all else. Enacting the racial agenda of Black Lives Matters and its allies (like the Democratic Party) now justifies tactics and activities that the ACLU once opposed consistently. Government indoctrination is no longer an offense to freedom of speech and thought, apparently. The ends justify the means.

Once upon a time, Nevada’s ACLU fought fought for transparency when The Silver State’s schools were establishing their sex education lesson plans. Staci Pratt, Legal Director of the ACLU of Nevada, said at the time, “The days of back door decision making are over. Compliance with the open meetings law is meant to secure the opportunity of parents, students, and community members to have a meaningful impact on the development of policy. We are all well served when decisions on the appointment of sex education advisory committee members is subject to public scrutiny, rather than the result of the presentation of a narrow range of interests.”  The ACLU of Kentucky used records requests to uncover curriculum plans in all of Kentucky’s 173 school districts, seeking to find evidence of religious instruction:

The ACLU-KY sent requests to all of Kentucky’s 173 school districts seeking policies and curriculum for “Bible Literacy” courses.  While most districts are not offering these courses, the ACLU-KY found many of the courses that are being offered do not fall within constitutional strictures, which require any use of religious text in the classroom to be secular, objective, nondevotional, and must not promote any specific religious view.

The investigation uncovered public school teachers using the Bible to impart religious life lessons (Barren, McCracken, and Letcher Counties), use of online Sunday School lessons and worksheets for course source material and assignments (Letcher and Wayne Counties), and rote memorization of Biblical text (McCracken County) — practices which fall far short of academic and objective study of the Bible and its historical context or literary value.

But that was baaad indoctrination, you see. Teaching Critical Race Theory-ish interpretations of American history that tar whites as intrinsically racist, blacks as handicapped by intransigent systemic racism, and, as a special bonus, that a person is whatever gender they decide to be are all good indoctrination, and if overly conservative, contrarian or controlling parents are inclined to interfere, well, the ACLU holds that schools are justified in making sure the Neanderthals don’t find out what’s being taught. Continue reading

From An Ethics Perspective, No Change Since 2015: Almost Anyone But Trump As The GOP Nominee In 2024

It’s too early, of course; many a Presidential candidate has emerged out of the primordial ooze to evolve from a near unknown to the nominee in three years. In the case of the Republicans (and the Democrats too) such an emergence is greatly to be wished. However, two objectives will remain constant: it is imperative that the lying, Machiavellian, totalitarianism-embracing Democrats be ejected from both branches of the government with sufficient force that they ponder their sins and reform, and that Donald Trump does not return to the Presidency.

Trump himself isn’t dangerous. If fact, in many ways he was an effective President, and his policies were more often reasonable than not; my objections to him as President involve character and style (and they are major objections that his accomplishments cannot counter-balance). However, the Left’s reaction to him is an existential threat. They have convinced themselves that eliminating him is a mission that must be accomplished by any means necessary, and they will continue to work to terrify the weak-minded, inattentive and gullible from now until the 2024 election…and, if necessary, after, no matter what the consequences may be.

They succeeded in convincing millions of Americans that he would destroy the country when he was elected the first time; he didn’t, but their tactics against him nearly did, and might yet. The nation cannot withstand another polarizing election with both sides claiming the other is trying to wreck all that is good about America, and with Trump as the Republican nominee.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/21/2022: Christmas’s And Meat Loaf’s End Edition

Meat Loaf has died. The hilariously theatrical pop singer with the big voice was responsible for one of the great ethics songs: “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.” It packed almost everything into one epic musical journey: temptation, non-ethical considerations vs. ethics, betrayal, consequences and cosmic retribution.

***

Absent a last-minute reprieve or a relapse of whatever it is that I’ve been battling, this looks like the final day for our especially lovely, inspiring Christmas tree. I always feel like I’m making the world a little meaner and less hopeful when I take it down. This post, from three years ago, still stands.

***

In U.S. ethics history, January 21 stands for one of the more significant pardons in American Presidential annals, because in 1977 Jimmy Carter pardoned all those young men, hundreds of thousands of them, who had fled to Canada rather than risk being drafted to fight in Vietnam. (Only half came back. I am tempted to say, “Good!,” but I won’t…) Those who left as a matter of principle and those who ran off because they wouldn’t have fought for their country under any circumstances (this was the era of “Better Red than Dead,” after all) were treated the same. It was a utilitarian trade-off, and whether the President’s decision was unethical (my Vietnam vet friends said it made them feel like suckers) or ethical (it definitely helped heal the national divisions over that misguided conflict), it was certainly brave and consequential. For example, that single act probably killed the draft as much as anything else.

***

Feel free to debate that issue here; I’m not up to it today myself. There won’t be the usual Friday Open Forum because there was one just two days ago (and it’s still open!). Full disclosure: in my fevered state, I really thought it was Friday when it was Wednesday.

1. This video is worrisome if it’s genuine, and it may not be. A young woman freaks out after getting a positive Wuhan variant test result, and acts as if she’s been sentenced to die on the rack and wheel. I fear this is what two years of politically-driven pandemic hysteria is turning our rising generations into: cowards, whiners, phobics and weenies. Her tearful lament ““The coolest characteristic about myself is that I haven’t gotten it!” is particularly nauseating. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The President’s Press Conference And Reactions To It

In no particular order…

  • On Hugh Hewitt’s show, Senator Rand Paul opined that President Biden shouldn’t be permitted to speak in public because it was dangerous. One might think that was an over-the-top statement (though censoring the last President was an ongoing project of Democrats, eventually executed by the party’s social media tools), but in the press conference yesterday, Biden appeared to give Russia a green light to invade the Ukraine. That’s pretty dangerous, I’d say.

The situation is clear: Putin is sabre-rattling about taking over the Ukraine in hopes of getting valuable concessions from the West to stay on his side of the border.  Biden is supposed to be making it clear that to do so would have unacceptable consequences, not by drawing an imaginary “red line” that he wouldn’t have the guts to enforce ( Robert Ludlum would have called this “The Obama Obfuscation”), but by being a convincing and formidable champion of international law whom Putin would have reason to fear. Instead, yesterday Biden offered a bribe to Putin by volunteering that NATO won’t make Ukraine a member. That’s bone-headed negotiation practice: giving away a bargaining chip without being assured of anything in return. (Joe has clearly not studied the Cuban Missile Crisis.) Then Biden suggested Putin “has no choice” but to invade now, and that his “guess” was that Putin “probably would go in.”  Oh! Then it’s all right I guess! Biden also said that the invasion would be successful: “The cost of going into Ukraine in terms of physical loss of life for the Russians — they’ll be able to prevail over time, but it’s going to be heavy.” In the alternative, Biden implied Russia might well get away with “a minor incursion.” Translation: “My advice, Vlad is take over  one piece of the Ukraine at a time.” 

Has any President uttered such dangerous statements affecting another nation’s sovereignty during a press conference? Paul has a case. Continue reading

What Do You Know: Illumination Still Works! Sometimes, Anyway…

This is an encouraging development. Maybe, just maybe, cumulative arguments like those that appear at Ethics Alarms eventually create positive change by shining light on unethical situations capable of remedy, and forcing lazy, cowardly or inattentive authorities to change course.

It’s nice to think so, anyway.

Spurred by the escalating controversy over the unfair triumphs of transgender Penn swimmer Lia Thomas in NCAA women’s meets, the NCAA announced a crucial change in its policy regarding transgender athletes. The eligibility of  transgender athletes to compete with women will now follow the sport-by-sport model adopted by the U.S. and international Olympic committees.  The new policy goes into effect immediately.

It would seem to mean that Lia, formerly James, will be out of the pool. USA Swimming policies follow the International Olympic Committee, and IOC’s rules state:

“Trans female athletes must demonstrate a total testosterone level in serum below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 consecutive months prior to competition and must remain below this threshold throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category in any event.”

What will happen to all those records Thomas set while hovering somewhere between male and female has not been determined.

I’m sure the NCAA would have been happy to remain blindly woke if it could have gotten away with it. If Ethics Alarms contributed in some tiny way to making sure they didn’t, that’s encouraging.

What would be even more encouraging is if feminists would stand up for the female athletes they fought so hard for, rather than meekly parroting LGTBQ propaganda.

 

 

 

When Ethics Alarms Don’t Work, Haven’t Been Installed, And Are Not Required In A Rotting Public School System, You Get This…

Yes, your eyes don’t deceive you and the photo isn’t doctored. That’s a teacher in one of the elementary schools at the North Penn School District taping a mask to the face of a student. Some quick-fingered fellow student captured the moment and posted it on social media—give THAT student a civic contribution award.

Here’s the self-damning statement about the incident from the North Penn School District: Continue reading

Ethics Shortcuts, 1/19/2022

Would you guess that I had to look at hundreds of “shortcut” graphics before I found a single one that didn’t relate to computers?

This is a dull date in ethics history. One event worthy of ethics note is the so-called “Dean Scream,” when in 2004, Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean ad-libbed a shriek at the end of a enthusiastic pledge to keep fighting all the way to the convention. He had just finished third in the Iowa Caucuses despite being the supposed front-runner for the nomination according to many prognosticators. But all anyone remembered after that January 19 night was the scream, which was played on loops on talk radio and opened Dean up to merciless ridicule. It was very unfair to Dean, of course, but a preview of what was to come in 21st Century politics, where sound bite mockery overwhelmed substantive argument.  Dean was an unqualified, mean-spirited, radical jerk, as he has proven repeatedly since; those qualities should have ended his career in electoral politics, not a momentarily loss of vocal control. This is no way to run a democracy.

I know a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, but I was curious about whether I felt the same way about the “Dean Scream” when it occurred. So I checked the Ethics Scoreboard, the Ethics Alarm predecessor that operated from 2004 to 2009, and..I did! In 2006, I included this in a longer post about flaming laptops:

Global circulation of bad moments captured on video, audio, or e-mail may not be ethical when it serves no purpose other than to embarrass someone for amusement or to score cheap political points. The Scoreboard has noted such examples as the sleeping cable repairman, Michael Moore’s gleeful use of footage in “Fahrenheit 911” that showed the former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz licking his comb, and the media’s malicious use of the “Dean scream” tape to make Howard Dean look like a lunatic, effectively sinking his presidential bid. Taking an insensitive or uncivil personal e-mail from another and sending it on a world wide tour to humiliate the writer is similarly unethical.

The fact that the nation was fortunate to be rid of Dean (he did later serve as the DNC Chair) is just moral luck.

1. Bias not only makes you stupid, it makes you unqualified to run the FCC. If the President is serious about seeking unity and bipartisanship, why does he keep nominating proto-single-party ideologues like this? His nominee for commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission has repeatedly tweeted her belief that Fox New is a “threat to democracy,” the current code for “dares to oppose progressive policies.” Gigi Sohn was announced as Biden’s FCC nominee in October, and was hyped as  “one of the nation’s leading public advocates for open, affordable, and democratic communications networks.” When she was not confirmed in 2021, Biden re-nominated Sohn this month. The nomination is, as they say, DOA, and should be. In one 2019 tweet, Sohn said, 

“I agree that scrutiny of big tech is essential, as is scrutiny of big telecom, cable & media. And trust me, the latter have played their own role in destroying democracy & electing autocrats. Like, say, Fox News?” 

One year later, when another Twitterer complained about social media censoring  posts about the Hunter Biden laptop story, Sohn replied: “So do you still want me to believe that social media is more dangerous to our democracy than Fox News?”

Without Fox News, for all its own biases, crudeness and excesses, broadcast news would be unanimous and relentless progressive and Democratic Party propaganda….and that is just what the Biden Administration wants, apparently. Sohn’s nomination goes right onto the Ethics Alarms list of brazen ways Democrats are attempting to gut democracy while accusing Donald Trump, conservatives and Republicans of threatening it.

2. Sometimes??? Jonathan Chait has a long and overwhelmingly negative rap sheet on Ethics Alarms, but he recently authored a post that bravely countered the prevailing progressive narrative, which I will discuss in a later post. But its title! “Progressives Still Haven’t Reckoned With It. Sometimes you need to own up to an error so it’s not repeated.”

I think the word you’re looking for, Jonathan, is “always” …which means you have a lot of backtracking to do. Continue reading

Open Forum: You Are The Substitute Teachers Now

On days like this I am especially grateful for both the Ethics Alarms Open Forums and the verve and seriousness with which readers here participate in them.

I thought of the substitute teacher theme because of a story circulating on social media, so it must be true. A substitute teacher (I always felt sorry for them, didn’t you?) claimed on Tik-Tok that she had been fired by one school because she refused to “meow” back to a girl in the class who, she was told by the students, “identified” as a kitten. The teacher laughed, made a joke about a litter box, and the girl/kitten complained. I assume that the story is fake and intended to make a point that hardly needs to be made again, but the fact that we can’t be 100% certain it’s fake is the real ethics issue here. How did we allow people so extreme and irrational to have so much influence over the culture that we would even be in doubt? Can this get worse? Can it be reversed?

But heck, I might have dreamed the whole thing anyway in my fevered state. Never mind. I’m going back to bed; I just sneezed on the screen.

Ethics Observations On An Article That Ruined My Day

It’s difficult for me to formulate complicated arguments when I’m drugged to the gills and sick, so I am, reluctantly, delaying a couple of pieces on the metaphorical runway to catch up on what other people are writing. Big mistake. I just finished a substack post by Paul Musgrave, a political scientist and writer whose newsletter is called “Systematic Hatreds.” It takes its title from a line in “The Education of Henry Adams,” one of my father’s favorite books: “Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, had always been the systematic organization of hatreds.” Musgrave, whom I never heard of before, is writing about how he teaches what he calls “the post-legacy media generation.”

It is clear early on in his depressing piece that that almost no one in that generation has heard of Henry Adams, or John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams, and probably not John Adams either. There’s an excellent chance few have even heard of Morticia Addams, Charles Addams, or know that Eric Adams is the latest mayor of New York City. In fact, it’s quite fair to conclude that none of these soon-to-be-crucial citizens know much of anything at all, because they do not read—literally, do not—and get whatever information the do get from similarly handicapped peers on social media. Musgrave is in the trenches, and he writes,

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