Mid-Day Ethics Mitigations, 9/8/2020: Flip-Flops, Trust, China, And Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah [Corrected]

1. Stipulated: President Trump contradicts himself, misrepresents facts and exaggerates routinely. But how can Biden supporters use that as their rationalization? Biden and Kamala Harris repeatedly promised to ban fracking during the primaries; now, campaigning in Pennsylvania where fracking means jobs and business, both are suddenly pro-fracking.

On August 13, Biden said that he would call for a nationwide face mask mandate. “Every single American should be wearing a mask when they’re outside for the next three months, at a minimum,” Biden said . “Let’s institute a mask mandate nationwide starting immediately, and we will save lives.” Kamala Harris, like Biden a lawyer, agreed. “That’s what real leadership looks like,” Harris said. “We just witnessed real leadership. Which is Joe Biden said that as a nation, we should all be wearing a mask for the next three months, because it will save lives.”

Biden reiterated his vow in his acceptance speech on the final night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. “We’ll have a national mandate to wear a mask — not as a burden, but to protect each other,” Biden said on August 20. “It’s a patriotic duty.” Of course, any second year law student and probably some astute college freshmen could have told the Democratic ticket that the government can’t require citizens to wear anything, and that the two were talking Constitutional nonsense aimed at the Bill of Rights-challenged members of the Democratic base, which is most of it.

Then over the weekend,  Biden admitted that his mask edict would probably be unconstitutional. “Here’s the deal, the federal government…there’s a constitutional issue whether the federal government could issue such a mandate, I don’t think constitutionally they could, so I wouldn’t issue a mandate,” Biden said.

Didn’t he and Harris already know this? If not why not; in fact, why the HELL not? Why wasn’t the news media “factchecking” Biden when he made a manifestly impossible pledge?

There is no advantage or ethical superiority in saying things that are untrue some of the time as opposed to doing it more often. Any politician who shows a lack of integrity, whose words can’t be relied upon and who changes his supposed views depending on what audience is listening to him or her is untrustworthy, and untrustworthy is untrustworthy. You are either worthy, or you’re not. Two instances like the fracking and mask reversals are enough to know Biden and Harris are not candidates who mean what they say. (You should have figured that out already, though.)

And, of course, sometimes if they DO mean what they say, it’s disturbing. Continue reading

Sunday Evening Ethics Nightcap: 5/3/2020: It Isn’t What It Is

Good NIGHT!

Yoo’s Rationalization, or “It isn’t what it is” seems to have become popular in recent weeks, and this collection reflects that hellish development.

1. Some things just aren’t true because you want them to be. In Great Britain, Freddy McConnell gave birth after transitioning (but obviously not completely, correct?), so he is fighting in the courts to be officially listed as his child’s father rather than his mother. His argument has been repeatedly rejected, most recently when he unsuccessfully appealed the court decision that he could be registered only as his son’s mother. He now wants to take his case to Britain’s Supreme Court.

What is it about people who think that the law can and should declare up to be down (because they prefer down) and why do they feel it is reasonable and ethical to take up time and resources to try to force the government  to endorse an eccentric  interpretation of reality? This reminds me of the argument that Bruce Jenner’s victories in the Olympics should be recorded as wins by his future female alter-ego. But women can’t compete in those events, can they? Similarly, the human being that gives birth to another human being is that individual’s mother, by definition. Like Abe Lincoln’s quip about how a dog doesn’t have five legs just because you call its tail a leg, McConnell can call himself anything he likes, and have his child call him what he likes. But he’s still kid’s mother.

Own it, dude, and stop wasting everyone’s time.

2.  Wait, what? The New York Times has a story headlined, “‘Murder Hornets’ in the U.S.: The Rush to Stop the Asian Giant Hornet/Sightings of the Asian giant hornet have prompted fears that the vicious insect could establish itself in the United States and devastate bee populations.

Explain, please, why it’s somehow racist to call the virus that came from the Wuhan Province in China “the Wuhan virus,” or the Chinese virus, but the same paper that has championed the cheap Trump-bashing  tactic of condemning the naming of a pandemic after its place of origin refers to a “vicious insect” from Asia the “Asian Giant Hornet’?

Then there is this head-exploder: In China, Wuhan has passed Beijing as the top domestic destination for Chinese tourists. It ranked only eighth before the pandemic.

The hashtag “武汉成为疫情后网民最想去旅游的城市,” roughly translated as “Wuhan is the top city netizens want to visit after the epidemic” has become viral on Chinese social media. Why? Apparently it’s because something momentous happened there. History!

So to sum up: Chinese people regard Wuhan as the origin of the pandemic, and that makes it more attractive to them as a tourist destination, but if Americans identify the same area with the pandemic here, they are racist. Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/20/2020: Phantom Patriots Day Edition

The Battle of Menotomy, April 19, 2020.

“One if by land, and two if by sea
And I on the opposite shore will be
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm
For the country folk to be up and to arm!”

Today, the third Monday in April,  is supposed to be Patriots Day in Massachusetts (and  few other states.) It absolutely should be a national holiday, as it celebrates the battles of Concord and Lexington as well as the rides of Paul Revere and his fellow messengers the night before. I typed the excerpt above from Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” from memory; I wonder how many students today  have even heard of the poem, or Concord and Lexington, for that matter.

The original holiday was on April 19, the date of both battles, but Arlington, Massachusetts, where I hail from, was actually the site of a bigger battle than either on the same day. On their way back from Concord after being soundly beaten at the bridge, the Redcoats marched through the town of Menotomy (Arlington now), where 5,100 militia men from surrounding towns had gathered after, unfortunately, the British had marched through the Menotomy on the way to Lexington Green with little resistance.  The volunteers, stationed around houses, stone walls, fields and barns, did considerable damage to the already limping British in the fighting that followed, but Arlington residents have always been a bit sheepish about the timing of the fight, and historians regard it as  anti-climactic following the tragedy at Lexington and the surprise victory at Concord.

Patriots Day is a big  deal in Boston, where the Boston Marathon is run annually on that date. The Red Sox also play a unique 11 am game, so spectators can leave the park and watch the finish of the race. All gone this year, of course.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t remember, and honor, the heroes, victims and events of 1775 that made the United States of America possible.

1. This is the kind of thing that will lead to serious back-lash against the pandemic dictators. The city of San Clemente was alarmed that some teens, bored with pplaying video games all day, every day, continued to skateboard in a local skate park despite orders that all parks be closed. Its solution?  Fill the park, at taxpayer expense, with 37 tons of sand. The money to build the park was raised by a nonprofit coalition of local families who wanted a place for their kids to be able to skate safely, and they were not even notified that the park would be filled with sand, according to KCAL-TV. Continue reading

I Have To Defend Bill Maher Again. Life Is Cruel.

Although to be fair, I should have seen this line coming. His old show was called “Politically Incorrect,” after all.

As he does periodically, the generally despicable HBO clown nose on-clown nose off  pseudopundit, whom left-wing pundits and politicians grovel to in order to be cheered by his studio audience of  ex-Occupy Wall Street campers, Bernie bros and you know, morons, bucked a progressive talking-point by saying, essentially, that it was stupid.

This one was particularly low-hanging fruit for Maher, as it should be for anyone: he said, admittedly in the most vulgar and tasteless way  imaginable, that the Virus That Came From China should be called a Chinese virus (or variations thereof, like the Wuhan virus name I use on Ethics Alarms and explained why here) and that saying it is racist to do so is cretinous. In Bill’s words,

“Scientists, who are generally pretty liberal, have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time. Zika is from the Zika Forest, Ebola from the Ebola River, hantavirus the Hantan River.There’s the West Nile virus and Guinea worm and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and, of course, the Spanish flu. MERS stands for Middle East respiratory syndrome. It’s plastered all over airports, and no one blogs about it. So why should China get a pass?”

Then Maher did a nice takedown of a characteristic tweet by Rep. Ted Lieu, who embarrasses the U.S. Congress, his state (California), his party (Democrats) and his district roughly every time he says anything. He had tweeted on this issue,

Calling #COVIDー19 the Wuhan Virus is an example of the myopia that allowed it to spread in the US. The virus is not constrained by country or race. Be just as stupid to call it the Milan Virus.

One would think that one of the few things Lieu could speak authoritatively about is being stupid, but no, not even that. Maher correctly reacted,

No, that would be way stupider because it didn’t come from Milan! And if it did, I guarantee we’d be calling it the Milan virus. Jesus fucking Christ!  Can’t we even have a pandemic without getting offended? When they name Lyme Disease after a town in Connecticut the locals didn’t get all ticked off …It scares me that there are people out there who would rather die of the virus than call it by the wrong name.

It scares me that someone like Ted Lieu is in Congress, or, for that matter, walking the streets without a harness and a keeper. Maher continued on his rant,

This isn’t about vilifying a culture. This is about facts. It’s about life and death. We’re barely four months into this pandemic, and the wet markets in China — the ones where exotic animals are sold and consumed — are already starting to reopen.

Sorry, Americans. We’re going to have to ask you to keep two ideas in your head at the same time: This has nothing to do with Asian Americans, and it has everything to do with China .We can’t afford the luxury anymore of nonjudginess towards a country with habits that kill millions of people everywhere because this isn’t the first time. SARS came from China and the bird flu and the Hong Kong flu, the Asian flu. Viruses come from China just like shortstops come from the Dominican Republic. If they were selling nuclear suitcases at these wet markets, would we be so nonjudgmental?”

Naturally, Maher is now being called a racist. The argument that it is racist to call something from China Chinese is itself a miracle, like one of those bacteria that can survive without oxygen or water. There is nothing supporting this argument, yet people still make it, because crying “Racism!” is supposed to stop free expression like holy water stops vampires. Confront someone with a functioning brain with the fact that, as Maher explains, the claim makes no sense whatsoever, you will be told that the real problem is that it gives actual racists an excuse to beat up Asians. With this they are advocating a thug’s veto, or a moron’s veto, or something like that, that just happens to bolster Chinese Communist propaganda.

Even a knee-jerk anti-American like Maher is too smart for be part of that.

Pandemic Ethics Potpourri: Spring Cleaning, Chapter 1

My files of potential and ongoing ethics stories and issues involving the Wuhan virus outbreak are stuffed to overflowing. I’m not going to have time to do the full posts many of these deserve, and the rest risk dropping into oblivion. Here is the first of several collections that will at least flag issues while allowing me to keep current…

1. Golf and the virus…

  • Three Massachusetts golfing enthusiasts, blocked from the links in their own state , were charged with misdemeanors in Rhode Island after going to extraordinary lengths to sneak into that state to hit the little white balls around. Rhode Island has issued a directive requiring all travelers to quarantine themselves for 14 days after entering the state. Gregory Corbett, 51, Tyler Pietrzyk, 22, and Nye Cameron, 22, determined to make it to the Meadow Brook Golf Course drove from Massachusetts to the smallest state, changed cars in a McDonald’s parking lot, and proceeded to the golf course with Rhode Island-issued plates to the club.
  • Right: right, we’re all in this together. Here’s Michigan Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel in two tweets:

2. When the going gets tough, the tough get race-baiting. Black Americans are experiencing a significantly higher percentage of infections and deaths than other demographic groups, especially in big cities. There are many likely reasons for this, but this one is infuriating: 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

Sunday Morning Alarms, 4/5/2020: After The First Two Items, You Won’t Want To Read Any More And Will Just Go Back To Bed…

….like I did…

1. KABOOM! Pennsylvanian Anita Shaffer, 19, decided to flee her York County home  a week ago for a mental health drive.  On her way back home, two Pennsylvania State Police officers stopped her about her car’s faulty tail-light. While talking with the officers,  Shaffer told them that she was just “going for a drive.” In response, they wrote her a ticket for more than $202.25 for violating the Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order.

That’s the citation above. It says Shaffer “failed to abide by the order of the governor and secretary of health issued to control the spread of a communicable disease, requiring the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses as of 20:00 hours on March 19, 2020. To wit, defendant states that she was ‘going for a drive’ after this violation was in effect,”

State police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski explained the ticket, saying, “Troopers have been encouraged to use contacts with the public as opportunities to reinforce the necessity to abide by stay-at-home orders.”

And how, exactly, does ticketing an individual who is engaged in conduct that cannot possibly infect anyone  accomplish  that?

Well, Tarkowski blathered,  being a soulless bureaucrat incapable of admitting that THE STATE is full of it in this case, “Troopers maintain discretion to warn or issue citations and the decision is specific to the facts and circumstances of a particular encounter.”

Fine. These facts do not justify a ticket by any stretch of the imagination. The officers’ discretion shows they are not qualified to wield the power they have. Indeed, the citation magnifies the extreme arbitrariness of such orders, and their danger when those charged with enforcing them have the judgment of Gestapo officers.

I’m surprised the cops didn’t slap her around a little, shoot her in the kneecap or even rape her, you know, to show the defiant prole who’s boss and not to ever, ever defy Big Brother.

Tarkowski also said Shaffer’s citation is the only one issued for violating the stay-at-home order. It’s good that the police picked a representative one to symbolize the Pennsyvania message to it’s citizens, which is apparently, “You will do as you are told, underlings.”

Well, not to be crude, but screw that.

Shaffer told reporters  she was within her rights to operate her car, and plans on challenging the citation.  Good. And again I ask, where is our vaunted American Civil Liberty Union on this issue? For three years, we have been hearing false cries of outrage about how the President is an autocrat just waiting to crush our civil rights, and now, when the civil rights of citizens are being ignored by tin pot governors all over the country, the ACLU just shrugs and sighs in its bunker, “It’s for the greater good.”

Oh..there was nothing wrong with her tail light. 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

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