bookmark_borderHospital capacity is not a reason to take away freedom

Over the course of the Covid pandemic, one of the main arguments for violating people’s rights is the desire to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. In my opinion, however, concerns about hospital capacity are not a valid reason for taking people’s freedoms away. By their very nature, rights must always come first.

This might sound hard-hearted or insensitive, but sometimes the demand for things exceeds the supply, and this is simply a part of life that people need to deal with. When an institution, organization, or business is experiencing more demand for its services than it can supply, it is up to that institution, organization, or business to either increase capacity or come up with a system for managing demand. One way to increase capacity is by building field hospitals or deploying hospital ships, as many cities and states did during the beginning of the pandemic. Another way is by asking staff to work more hours, or intensifying efforts to recruit more staff. Some examples of managing demand include using a first come first served system, prioritizing people based on how severe their condition is, drawing names from a hat, or using another randomized method to determine who will receive services. Whichever methods are used, one thing remains constant: any of these methods of managing capacity is a better solution than violating people’s rights in an attempt to reduce demand.

For some reason, many people have the attitude that for hospitals to be over capacity is something that must be avoided at all costs. It follows that controlling people’s behavior in order to reduce the amount of people who become sick is permissible (or even necessary, in some people’s opinions). But this way of thinking is backwards. People’s rights must come first. People have fundamental rights, which include the rights to make our own medical decisions and to move about freely. People must be allowed to freely decide whether to get the Covid vaccine or not, whether to do Covid testing or not, which activities to engage in, which people to get together with, which businesses to patronize, and which locations to visit. Whatever demand for hospitals’ services results from people’s collective decisions, is the demand that results, and hospitals need to come up with a system for dealing with that. Just like any other business or institution, it is the job of hospitals to manage capacity issues if and when they arise. Doing so might require making difficult decisions. Preventing difficult decisions from needing to be made is great if possible, but it does not supersede people’s rights.

It is also worth mentioning that making non-vaccinated people go to the back of the line for medical services is, in my opinion, a permissible option if hospitals are at or over capacity. This solution would address the concerns about non-vaccinated people becoming severely sick and needlessly taking hospital capacity away from people who “deserve” it more. And it would address these concerns in a way that does not violate the rights of non-vaccinated people. Why not have a policy that people who opt against vaccination are doing so at their own risk? Under such a policy, people would be perfectly free to either get the vaccine or not. If someone becomes severely sick from Covid, they would have the option of either showing proof of vaccination to move to the front of the queue, or remaining at the back of the queue if they have not gotten the vaccine or do not wish to disclose their status. Given that this would solve the hospital capacity problem without violating anyone’s rights, there really is no justification for forcing people to get the vaccine (or banning them from occupations, places, or activities unless they get it, which is essentially the same as forcing them). The thought process seems to be that it is somehow more cruel to move non-vaccinated people who become severely sick to the back of the line than it is to force all non-vaccinated people to do something they do not want to do. But this is false, and this way of thinking is paternalistic and illogical.

For things to exceed their capacity is part of life, and there is no reason for hospitals to be treated differently than any other institution, organization, or business. It is morally backwards to argue that hospital capacity should determine which activities people are allowed to do. Although preventing hospitals from becoming overwhelmed is a worthy goal, it cannot be allowed to dictate how much freedom people are granted. Respecting individual liberty is more important than anything else. Rights come first, and everything else, including concerns about hospital capacity, come second.

bookmark_borderStop the Mandates rally in Boston

Today I attended an event called the “Show Up Strong: Stop the Mandates” rally in Boston, MA. Several hundred people gathered outside the State House to protest against vaccine mandates in general, and the city of Boston’s vaccine mandate for restaurants, gyms, theaters, and sporting events in particular. 

As a band played pro-freedom rock music, protesters lined both sides of Beacon Street, holding signs, waving flags, and chanting “Wu Has No Heart.” I held a sign that read, “My body my Choice / No vaccine mandates.” Starting a few minutes after noon, a variety of speakers addressed the crowd from the steps in front of the State House, including a state representative, a rabbi, the owner of a popular Italian restaurant, the chairman of the Constitution Party, a veteran and gym owner, a police sergeant who lost her job for opting against the vaccine, and an occupational therapist who lost her job for the same reason. The crowd of protesters was racially and politically diverse. Unsurprisingly, Gadsden flags, F— Biden flags, Trump signs, and “Let’s Go Brandon” apparel dotted the crowd, but there were also left-leaning types and signs containing the “A” for anarchy symbol. People of all races danced and chanted about love, truth, health, and freedom. 

Numerous drivers honked their horns and gave the thumbs up from their vehicles as they drove past, including a UPS driver, a school bus driver, a taxi driver, and drivers from various food companies, a flower shop, HVAC companies, and construction companies. A pickup truck with signs saying “Impeach Biden” and “Impeach Warren” drove by several times, honking loudly to express support. Photographers and videographers from various news outlets captured images of the crowd, and a few police officers milled about.

The only aspect of the rally that I did not enjoy was the weather. As someone on the autism spectrum, I am particularly sensitive to cold, wind, and rain, and I considered not attending because the forecast called for exactly those things. A cold rain came and went throughout the afternoon, not enough of a downpour to drench anyone, but enough to make everything and everyone damp and shivering. 

Shortly before 2:00, the protesters took to the streets, marching from the State House to City Hall (where Mayor Michelle Wu had decided to close the building and order staff to work from home) past Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market and on to the North End. Chanting “Let’s Go Brandon,” “Shame on Wu,” and “My Body, My Choice,” we took over the streets of Boston, forcing cars to stop and paying no attention to traffic lights. At the head of the procession were people with bullhorns, as well people holding a large banner that read, “Medical freedom: the new civil rights movement.” Along the way, people going about their business stopped to watch and take videos on their phones. Construction workers in bright yellow vests cheered, and old guys hanging out near the “Connah Store” clapped their hands. People peered down from the windows of apartment buildings, some flashing the thumbs up, some simply gawking in curiosity, and only one giving the middle finger. Along the way, we passed the statue of boxer Tony DeMarco. Noticing that someone had placed a mask on the statue’s face, one of the rally leaders promptly removed the mask and threw it on the ground.

At 2:30, we arrived at the Paul Revere statue in the North End, where we posed for a group photo and sang “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” By the time the march concluded, I was shivering uncontrollably from the cumulative amount of time spent in the cold and rain, and my hands were numb. My sign, as well as numerous other people’s signs, was soaked, and the letters were starting to smudge. However, it would be a no-brainer to say that I was glad I went. All of the horrible things happening in the world have really been getting me down, particularly comments on social media saying that people like me are not welcome in Boston and that we should stay out of “their” city. Participating in this rally and march gave me the sense that I am not alone and that I do have a place in the city of Boston. Marching en masse through the streets, bringing traffic to a halt, and attracting stares from passerby, was truly a powerful and exhilarating experience. For a couple hours, at least, I felt that I had a voice and a community. That in itself is a big victory.

Continue reading “Stop the Mandates rally in Boston”

bookmark_borderNothing says “resistance” like taking away bodily autonomy

Check out this new possible candidate for the dumbest tweet ever, in which someone with the word “resisting” in their username addresses fellow “resisters” and then proceeds to express sentiments that are the antithesis of resistance:

Let’s go over everything wrong with this.

  1. Withholding Social Security benefits from those who choose not to get the Covid vaccine is morally abhorrent.
  2. Requiring people to prove that they’ve gotten the vaccine in order to vote is even more morally abhorrent.
  3. Requiring people to prove that they’ve gotten the vaccine in order to vote is utterly hypocritical, given that people on the left-hand side of the political spectrum have spent the past two years loudly and repeatedly condemning the idea of requiring an ID to vote as racist and anti-democracy.
  4. People who choose not to get the vaccine are not the same thing as “anti-vaxxers.” Choosing not to participate in something oneself is not the same as being against the thing entirely.
  5. Expressing one’s opposition to something is not the same as “freaking out.” Using the term “freaking out” presumes that the person in question is acting unreasonably, but it is entirely reasonable and correct to oppose conditioning receipt of Social Security checks upon undergoing a medical procedure.
  6. This shouldn’t even need to be stated, but hating socialism does not require that one happily go without Social Security benefits after having spent years paying into the system. This is particularly true when the denial of SS benefits is based on a personal medical decision and therefore unjust and discriminatory. Those who oppose the Social Security system think that people shouldn’t have to pay into it in the first place. They don’t think that people should have to pay, and then be unfairly and discriminatorily denied the benefits that they have paid for. Given that the SS system exists, people have no choice but to receive SS cards at birth and have deductions taken from their paychecks. There is no inconsistency in opposing this system while also expecting to receive the benefits that one has paid for, given that the system exists.

In conclusion, it is beyond despicable to suggest that people who have done nothing wrong be punished by having their right to vote or their Social Security benefits taken away. I simply do not understand why so many people are so cruelly and viciously intent on browbeating, bullying, pressuring, and coercing others into getting a vaccine that they do not want. It is disturbing that such mean-spirited, nasty, discriminatory, and intolerant sentiments are so widely and so strongly held. A world in which eligibility for benefits, or the ability to vote in elections, is contingent upon undergoing a medical procedure is a world in which life is not worth living. To suggest that this is in any way a good thing is completely unacceptable, and to suggest that people ought to be fine with this because they “hate socialism” is moronic. The fact that a human being would actually tweet such sentiments is a sad commentary on the state of humanity, and the fact that said person characterizes him/herself as a proponent of “resistance” makes things even worse. The only thing this person is resisting is other people’s right to make their own medical decisions… which of course makes him/her the authority and his/her opponents the true resisters.

bookmark_borderVaccine mandates are the opposite of diversity and inclusion

Many people who support vaccine mandates have cited, as a reason for their support, the fact that the mandates keep non-vaccinated people out of their cities. For example, when I have expressed my opposition to the city of Boston’s requirement that people present proof of vaccination in order to enter restaurants, bars, theaters, and gyms, people have responded by telling me that I had better stay out of “their” city, and that people like me are not welcome there. When mandate opponents declare their intention to stop visiting restaurants, bars, theaters, and gyms in Boston, they are ridiculed by those who assert that the entire purpose of the mandate is to keep people like them out anyway.

On a moral and philosophical note, comments like these are wrong. There is simply no valid reason to dislike, exclude, stigmatize, or look down on people who opt against vaccination. People have an absolute right to decline medical interventions, and in no circumstance is the decision to get a medical procedure morally superior to the decision not to get one. Any government policy whose purpose is to “keep out” people who have done nothing wrong is unjust and discriminatory, and anyone with human decency would oppose such policies, not cheer them on.

On a personal note, these comments are hurtful. I have always considered Boston my city just as much as anyone else’s. Although I do not live in the city itself, I have lived in the suburbs of Boston all my life. I am a fan of all the Boston sports teams, have a Boston accent, and consider myself to be from Boston. I worked in Boston for many years. Since childhood I have enjoyed visiting museums, attending Bruins, Celtics, and Sox games, enjoying special events in the city, and eating and drinking at its restaurants and bars. As I became a young adult, I learned how to navigate on the “T.” Exploring the different Boston neighborhoods and taking photos of the buildings, statues, and landmarks became one of my biggest hobbies.

But the city has changed. Over the past two years, it has become increasingly apparent that Boston is no longer a place where people like me are welcome. The statues, monuments, and holidays that honor my culture and reflect my values have been abolished and removed, replaced by those honoring other people’s cultures and values. And now, because I believe in privacy and medical freedom, I am barred from participating in public life. People, many of whom are likely younger than me and who likely have lived in the Boston area for less time than I have, are telling me to “stay away” from “their” city and are bragging about policies designed to “keep out” people like me. 

The destruction of the Christopher Columbus statue, the abolition of Columbus Day, and now the requirement that people show proof of vaccination in order to go about their lives – each of these losses was a punch to the gut. The city that I loved, and that I considered a part of my identity, is no more. Now, when I hear or see the word “Boston,” I feel sick to my stomach. Something that once filled me with joy and pride now makes me feel visceral disgust.

I wrestle with the question of what is the best thing to do about this unfortunate situation. Should I hold out hope that the mandate will eventually be repealed, and pray in the meantime that it does not spread to additional types of businesses or other cities and towns? Is there a chance that Boston might one day return to being a city where I feel included as opposed to hated? Should I identify myself with the specific suburb than I live in, as opposed to the Boston area? Or should I move to a different state or perhaps a different country, where people of my values, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and medical status might be more welcomed?

The answers to these questions depend on how the situation unfolds: whether courts uphold vaccine mandates or strike them down, whether or not mandates spread to the Boston suburbs, and whether or not they are repealed as covid numbers decrease. As someone on the autism spectrum, it is difficult to have my future up in the air. When I bought my home, I operated on the assumption that it would be where I would live for the rest of my life. When I started my job, I assumed that I would continue with it until I reached retirement age. The possibility of having to uproot myself and establish a new life in a completely new location is daunting. But it may be the only option if I wish to once again have a life that is worth living. Existing in the Boston area, where my history and culture are condemned as racist, where human dignity is not valued, where individual rights are ridiculed, and where I am treated as an outsider despite having lived here for my entire life, is not tolerable for me.

The discriminatory and exclusionary sentiments of vaccine mandate supporters are even more objectionable when one considers the fact that, to a large extent, these are the same people who have so vocally supported the ideas of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion in other contexts. When it comes to the pandemic, however, these values are thrown out the window. Demanding that everyone make the same choices as you is the antithesis of diversity. Condemning people for their personal medical decisions is the antithesis of tolerance. And eagerly calling for people to be kept out of “your” city is the antithesis of inclusion. 

It is my opinion that those whose opinions dominate our public discourse do not truly believe in diversity, tolerance, or inclusion at all. Instead, they only value people who are like them, and believe that anyone who is different deserves to be shamed, ridiculed, and punished. This way of thinking is similar to that of popular kids in middle school who bully and exclude anyone who dresses differently, talks differently, or thinks differently. I never expected that as an adult, I would once again be living in a world dominated by a mentality that people used to mature out of by the time they reached high school. How pathetic that those who hold positions of power in our society are no better than middle school bullies.

bookmark_borderThe protesters are not the problem

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s decision to require covid vaccination as a condition of entering restaurants, gyms, concerts, and sporting events is truly despicable. What is equally despicable is the fact that many in the media treat the people with the audacity to protest against this totalitarian policy as the problem, as opposed to the policy itself.

For example, the Boston Globe put out an article entitled, “Racist, misogynist vitriol continues against Wu after vaccination policy announcement.” The fact that the Globe would choose to do an article dissecting and scrutinizing opponents of the mandate, as opposed to dissecting and scrutinizing the mandate itself, is disturbing. The article, by Danny McDonald, details the allegedly racist and/or sexist content of protesters’ signs, calls to the city’s 311 system, and online comments. The article criticizes the fact that non-racist and non-sexist people who oppose the mandate have not spoken out against their allegedly racist and sexist compatriots. And the article provides examples of other female politicians of color who have allegedly received racist and/or sexist comments, including U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, who calls criticism of both herself and Wu “exhausting” and “distressing.” You know what is exhausting and distressing? Being subjected to a government policy that requires you to undergo a medical procedure in order to exist in public, and then being treated as if you are the problem for expressing your dissent. Opponents of the vaccine mandate are not perfect. There may indeed be some racist and sexist people among our ranks. But that is true of people on every side of every issue. By focusing so much negative attention on the opponents of the mandate, and the fact that some of them have expressed their opposition in non-ideal ways, the Globe completely ignores the entirely legitimate underlying grievance: the fact that the mandate is morally wrong. It is twisted and backwards that the Globe considers a few discriminatory comments (and the failure to actively condemn these comments) to be a bigger problem than a policy barring people from public life because of their personal medical decisions.

Continuing with the theme of criticizing mandate opponents for not actively condemning alleged prejudice in their ranks, WGBH also did an article about the alleged racist and sexist comments that Wu has received. Wu made some truly objectionable comments in the article, which I will discuss in detail in another blog post, but it is also notable that the article condemns “abusive” anti-Wu comments containing “slurs and threats” that people made on gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl’s facebook page. WGBH reporter Adam Reilly apparently interrogated Diehl about these comments despite the fact that the people who made them are private citizens who have nothing to do with the Diehl campaign. “The standard that a politician should denounce public commentary on social media by people not connected to his campaign is not a standard that you, or most in the media, would apply to any other politician, and, as such, we are expecting that it not be applied to the Diehl campaign either,” his campaign manager correctly pointed out. Like the Globe, WGBH fails to acknowledge that the vaccine mandate itself is the bigger issue here, not the manner in which its opponents express their views. Forcing people to undergo a medical procedure in order to participate in public life is far more abusive than a few politically incorrect social media comments. 

Another example of treating mandate opponents as the problem is the article and accompanying tweets by Boston news website Universal Hub about the press conference at which Wu announced the authoritarian vaccine requirement. 

As you can see, Adam Gaffin, the author of Universal Hub, refers to protesters against Wu’s policy as “yahoos” and “screamers.” It is unprofessional for what is supposed to be an objective news website to refer to anyone in such blatantly derogatory and insulting terms, particularly protesters speaking out against a totalitarian and immoral policy. 

In both the article and the tweets, Gaffin comes across as annoyed, irritated, and perturbed at the fact that anyone would protest against a policy that violates people’s rights. The possibility of being annoyed, irritated, and perturbed at the actual policy itself, which would make a lot more sense, apparently does not occur to him. Gaffin tweets about his desire to visit the humorous website zombo.com to take a break from his stressful day, as if the existence of people with dissenting views is something to be exasperated about. This is infuriating and demonstrates a lack of empathy. The mayor of Boston enacted an unjust and immoral policy that Gaffin obviously supports, and he is stressed and exasperated that people had the audacity to express dissent? How about the people who are being harmed by Wu’s authoritarian policy? How about the people whose rights are being violated? How does he think we feel? How does he think the protesters feel about the fact that the mayor enacted a policy that violates their rights, and the media are personally insulting them and treating them as the problem? We are the ones who have a right to be upset, not those who support the policy that was just enacted.

This tweet is, frankly, beyond the pale. An immoral policy that violates people’s rights was just enacted, and Gaffin again decides that the best thing to do in this situation is to personally insult and ridicule those who are protesting against said policy. God forbid that he actually, you know, criticize the immoral policy. That would be too right and make too much sense. Instead, he insults and ridicules those who are (correctly) opposed to the policy and also makes completely unsupported and bizarre generalizations about their gender, family status, and living arrangements. 

He does the same thing in this article at Universal Hub in which he refers to opponents of Wu’s policy as “dregs of the suburban earth” and accuses them of having “stubby little fingers” and “spittle-flecked keyboards.”

This brings me to my next point, which is that many in the media seem to hold the belief that, somehow, living in a suburb of Boston disqualifies one from having an opinion about the fact that the mayor of Boston decided to violate people’s fundamental rights. I wasn’t aware of any rule requiring one to live in the city of Boston in order to be allowed to have an opinion about what is happening there. Why is it relevant that Geoff Diehl and Tony Federico, whom Gaffin names as being among the protesters at City Hall, live in the suburbs as opposed to the city itself? Why does Adam Balsam, another alleged journalist, mention that people who called/emailed the city’s 311 number to criticize the mandate are not residents of Boston? People who live in suburbs near Boston and who work there, eat at restaurants there, visit museums there, attend Bruins, Celtics, or Sox games, or go into the city for any reason, are directly and substantively harmed by the mandate. More importantly, if something is unjust, then criticizing it is always the correct thing to do, regardless of whether or not one is personally affected by the injustice.

Also lost on Balsam is the fact that a policy specifically intended to keep people out of a city because of their personal medical decisions is cruel, discriminatory, reprehensible, and despicable. He is so busy criticizing those who intend to stop visiting Boston because of the mandate that he apparently doesn’t think to criticize the policy that is “SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO KEEP THEM OUT” in the first place.

In conclusion, it is infuriating that the media reacts to a totalitarian, unjust, and immoral decision not by criticizing the decision itself but by criticizing those who oppose it. When a policy is implemented that requires people to undergo a medical procedure in order to exist in public spaces, everyone on earth should join forces in doing whatever they possibly can to fight against the policy and get it repealed. Yet many “journalists” not only openly support such a policy but also ridicule and personally insult the few brave people who voice dissent. It says a lot about today’s society that protests against a totalitarian policy are seen as the problem, as opposed to the policy itself.

bookmark_borderOn safety versus the right to do whatever you want

“Those people think that rights mean they can just do whatever they want.”

“You are saying that people’s freedom to do whatever they want trumps people’s freedom not to catch a deadly disease.”

“You value the right to do whatever you want more than other people’s safety.”

Statements like these have been repeated ad nauseam since the beginning of the covid pandemic. Those who express these views apparently consider the ability to do whatever one wants unimportant. In other words, people have essentially been “pooh-poohing” the concept of being able to do what one wants. Anyone who does value this freedom is attacked as selfish, entitled, and/or irresponsible.

In my opinion, this way of thinking is incorrect. The ability to do whatever one wants is extraordinarily important. Without it, in fact, life would not be worth living at all.

In order to appreciate the importance of being able to do what one wants, it is necessary to distinguish between two different concepts.

First, I agree that there is a sense in which it is not realistic or reasonable to simply do whatever the heck one wants. For example, if you have 10 dollars, and an item that you want costs 15 dollars, then you cannot buy it. You will need to either save up more money, buy a cheaper item, or go without. Similarly, you cannot steal from people, and you cannot go up to someone and punch them in the face. These are things that pretty much anyone would agree with. Additionally, there are numerous situations in which people have to do things that they don’t exactly want to do, but which they choose to do because they are necessary in order to achieve the person’s goals. For example, if you have a job, you need to show up for your shift, do the duties that you are assigned, and wear the uniform or follow the dress code. If you want to become, say, a pilot, you will need to learn how to fly a plane. You can’t just decide that it would be fun to be a pilot and start serving as a pilot without actually learning how to do so. If you want to lose weight, you will likely need to exercise. Everyone should accept that they cannot violate the rights of others, and that they might have to do things that are unpleasant in the pursuit of their goals.

But there is a second sense of not being able to do what one wants, or having to do things that one doesn’t want, that quite frankly no one should accept. This concept includes things that you don’t want to do, and in your judgment don’t make sense for you to do, but you are being made to do them by someone else. For example, say you bought a house in which the previous owner had set up an illegal apartment, with a second kitchen. You have no intention of allowing anyone other than yourself to live in the house, and have no intention of using the second kitchen, but it’s not hurting anyone by existing, and you’d rather not spend the money to have it taken out. But the city tells you that you must have the second kitchen ripped out, because its existence violates the local building codes. That is an example of being forced to do something which you don’t want to do and which doesn’t make sense for you to do. In my opinion, this is something that you shouldn’t have to do. The city is violating your rights.

By requiring people to undergo medical procedures – namely covid vaccination and/or covid testing – as a condition of being allowed to work, go to school, or enter public spaces, governments and institutions are similarly violating people’s rights.

When you are a child, you generally have no say in what medical procedures you do or do not get. When you go to a doctor’s appointment, the doctor might say that you need to get three shots today, or they might say you don’t have to get any. You don’t think of the shots as something that you are choosing, or as something that is beneficial to you; you just view them as an unwelcome intrusion into your life that you have no control over. When the shots are done, you leave the appointment knowing that at least that is behind you for now, and you don’t have to worry about it for another year.

The whole point of becoming an adult is that you never have to think of medical procedures – or any other activity, for that matter – in that way again. You might choose to get medical procedures that are unpleasant or even painful, because you determine that the benefits are worth it. But you should never get a medical procedure because someone else told you that you have to. That defeats the purpose of being an adult. The only time that you should get a medical procedure, or do any other activity, is when you think that it makes sense for you.

Unfortunately, many people who hold political power in today’s society believe that it is completely fine for people to be deprived of their freedom to do whatever they want. These people think that it is right to place safety above people’s rights to make their own decisions, and they think that anyone who disagrees with them is selfish. But this is false. People who deny others the ability to do what they want are treating adults like children. They are taking us all back to the days when, as little kids, we were subjected to whatever medical procedures the doctor decided were appropriate. That was a way of existing which, upon turning 18, I assumed I would never again need to experience, and which no adult should ever need to experience.

Today’s politicians may be creating a society with less risk of catching deadly diseases, but in doing so they are creating a society in which the very thing that makes life worth living is gone. Without the ability to set one’s own goals, to choose one’s own priorities, to weigh risks and benefits, to make tradeoffs, to determine what makes sense for oneself, and yes, to do whatever one wants, then life is not worth living at all.

bookmark_borderBiden the bully

There’s been a lot of discussion, much of it negative, about the below post on the official White House website. In this blog post, I will join in the discussion and give my thoughts

First of all, I’m not a fan of using the terms “the vaccinated” and “the unvaccinated.” I prefer to talk about people who have gotten the Covid vaccine and people who haven’t. I find it wrong, and somewhat demeaning, to use language that defines people by whether or not they have gotten a medical procedure. 

More substantively, I disagree with the assertion that “the vaccinated” have “done the right thing.” Getting a vaccine is morally neutral. Opting for and opting against vaccination are equally good, acceptable, and valid options. There is nothing morally virtuous about getting a medical procedure, and there is nothing wrong or immoral whatsoever about abstaining from doing so.

Additionally, as many others have expressed, I find the tone of the second paragraph to be disturbing. It is clear that Biden (or whichever of his employees wrote the post) is intending to threaten and intimidate people into getting the vaccine. He is essentially saying: if you make a medical decision that is different than mine, then horrible things are going to happen to you. Plus, he tries to induce guilt and shame by telling those who opt out that they will “overwhelm” hospitals, causing other people to be unable to get the medical services they need. In addition to being factually inaccurate (data indicate that the omicron variant is generally mild regardless of vaccine status, and that the vast majority of people who get it do not require hospitalization), Biden’s words are mean-spirited and smack of authoritarianism and bullying. It is inappropriate, unkind, unjust, and wrong to introduce moral condemnation into a non-moral topic

The hypocrisy of Biden’s words is also noteworthy. Throughout his campaign, and in his inaugural address, Biden presented himself as being all about decency, civility, and unity. Yet now he is praising one group of people while condemning and threatening another, solely on the basis of the personal medical decisions that they have made. It is ironic that so many people who relentlessly attacked Donald Trump for being a “bully” are perfectly fine with a president who condemns, coerces, and threatens people for making a medical decision that differs from that of the majority.

This statement, and the many similar ones that he has made so far during his presidency, show Biden to be far more of a bully than Trump ever was. Biden’s policies and rhetoric are the antithesis of decency, civility, and unity.

bookmark_border“Nothing more American than coming together and taking care of each other”

Disgustingly, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced today that people will be required to give up their rights to bodily autonomy and privacy in order to be allowed to enter restaurants, bars, gyms, museums, theaters, and any other indoor eating, drinking, sports, and/or entertainment facilities.

One of the most disturbing things that she said in the press conference announcing this decision was, “There is nothing more American than coming together to ensure that we are taking care of each other” (source: MassLive).

I could not disagree more strongly with this statement. In my opinion, coming together to take care of each other is not American at all, nor is it morally virtuous. I believe that it is each person’s responsibility to take care of his/her own self, and that the world is a better place when people concern themselves with their own goals and their own happiness and allow others to do the same. People are not morally obligated to take care of others.

Even if one considers it morally virtuous to take care of each other, doing so cannot come at the expense of individual rights. The right to privacy, the right to make one’s own medical decisions, and the right to freely come and go in public spaces are all fundamental rights. People deserve to have all of these freedoms, and it is morally impermissible to take any of these freedoms away or force people to choose between them, as Wu’s policy (along with similar ones around the country and world) does.

It would be a true statement to say that there is nothing more American than individual rights. The concepts of individuality, freedom, and liberty are quintessential American values, and contrary to Wu’s assertion, policies that sacrifice these for the sake of “taking care of each other” are both morally wrong and un-American.

Gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl eloquently voiced his disagreement with the vaccine mandate:

“These mandates are clear violations of the civil rights of anyone who lives in, works in, or travels to the city… While I openly acknowledge and share concern over rising case counts in Massachusetts, infringing on citizens’ right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is never an acceptable solution.”

bookmark_borderJudge Kurt D. Engelhardt is awesome

On Friday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed a lower court’s decision to halt, temporarily at least, the immoral and authoritarian OSHA order forcing businesses with over 100 employees to force all of their employees to undergo medical procedures against their will.

Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt, who authored the decision, made some excellent points that had me pumping my fist and jumping up and down with joy while reading it. Some highlights are below:

  • “On the dubious assumption that the Mandate does pass constitutional muster – which we need not decide today – it is nonetheless fatally flawed on its own terms. Indeed, the Mandate’s strained prescriptions combine to make it the rare government pronouncement that is both overinclusive (applying to employers and employees in virtually all industries and workplaces in America, with little attempt to account for the obvious differences between the risks facing, say, a security guard on a lonely night shift, and a meatpacker working shoulder to shoulder in a cramped warehouse) and underinclusive (purporting to save employees with 99 or more coworkers from a ‘grave danger’ in the workplace, while making no attempt to shield employees with 98 or fewer coworkers from the very same threat).”
  • “The Mandate is staggeringly overbroad. Applying to 2 out of 3 private-sector workers in America, in workplaces as diverse as the country itself, the Mandate fails to consider what is perhaps the most salient fact of all: the ongoing threat of COVID-19 is more dangerous to some employees than to other employees. All else equal, a 28-year-old trucker spending the bulk of his workday in the solitude of his cab is simply less vulnerable to COVID-19 than a 62-year-old prison janitor. Likewise, a naturally immune unvaccinated worker is presumably at less risk than an unvaccinated worker who has never had the virus. The list goes on, but one constant remains – the Mandate fails almost completely to address, or even respond to, much of this reality and common sense.”
  • “It is clear that a denial of the petitioners’ proposed stay would do them irreparable harm. For one, the Mandate threatens to substantially burden the liberty interests of reluctant individual recipients put to a choice between their job(s) and their jab(s). For the individual petitioners, the loss of constitutional freedoms ‘for even minimal periods of time… unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.'”
  • “Of course, the principles at stake when it comes to the Mandate are not reducible to dollars and cents. The public interest is also served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions – even, or perhaps particularly, when those decisions frustrate government officials.”
  • “Health agencies do not make housing policy, and occupational safety administrators do not make health policy. In seeking to do so here, OSHA runs afoul of the statute from which it draws its power and, likely, violates the constitutional structure that safeguards our collective liberty.”

To say that the vaccine mandate threatens to substantially burden people’s liberty interests is an understatement. Almost nothing violates individual liberty more severely than requiring people to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of employment.

Engelhardt is 100% correct when he writes that OSHA has overstepped its bounds by enacting the mandate. OSHA’s job is to protect workers’ safety in the workplace, not to control people’s personal medical decisions or to shape behavior in order to achieve the government’s desired public health outcomes. Although forcing all workers to get either a vaccine or weekly covid testing does reduce the likelihood of a covid outbreak at a workplace, it is clear that the motivation of Biden and his administration in enacting the mandate is not specifically to make workplaces safer, but simply to force as many people as possible to get the vaccine. In other words, Biden wants everyone to get the vaccine, and his administration determined that an OSHA standard would be the most effective (and most likely to survive legal scrutiny) means of doing that. The fact that making everyone get a medical procedure does not fall within OSHA’s purview (not to mention the fact that doing so violates everyone’s rights) doesn’t seem to matter to the Biden administration. 

Nothing makes this clearer than the fact that the mandate applies even to workers who work from home 100% of the time. If the mandate was intended to protect workers from catching covid at work, then it would grant people the option of working remotely (if their job duties allow) as an alternative to vaccination or testing. If a worker never physically sets foot in the workplace, their vaccine and testing decisions do not affect the safety of their co-workers. Forcing remote workers to undergo medical procedures does nothing to improve workplace safety, yet this is exactly what the Biden administration chose to do.

By enacting this vaccine mandate, the Biden administration has perverted the purpose of OSHA. A government agency that was founded to protect workers from the harmful actions of employers is now being used to require employers to do harmful things to their workers. Let’s hope and pray that these recent court decisions are the beginning of turning the tide back in the direction of liberty, individual rights, and human decency.

bookmark_borderRestrictions are imposed by the government, not by the virus

“Somehow, we have to keep convincing people that this is not something being imposed upon them by the government. It’s being imposed on them by the virus. And we don’t want the virus to win.”

These are the words of Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. This quote stood out to me when reading this article about the Covid pandemic and the possibility that it might finally be winding down. Collins is claiming that restrictions on individual liberty – such as stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, Covid testing requirements, and vaccine mandates – are not being imposed by the government but by the virus itself.

This sentiment is common. Since the pandemic first began, we have been told that if we just comply with the rules and diligently follow public health advice, then the number of positive cases will go down, allowing restrictions to be lifted. We have been told that vaccination is the way to get life back to normal, and that mask requirements allow schools to remain open for in-person learning. Until recently, signs at my local park implored people to maintain social distancing so that the park would be able to remain open.

But this way of thinking is false. The decision to impose restrictions on individual liberty in an effort to combat the virus is just that – a decision. When restrictions are imposed, they are imposed by governments (or whatever institution is imposing the restrictions, whether that be a university, employer, or other organization), not by the virus.

This might be a revolutionary concept to some people, but not imposing restrictions is always an option. The city government could have left the park open regardless of whether or not people were practicing social distancing. Stay-at-home orders could have been lifted regardless of the number of positive cases or, even better, could have not been imposed to begin with. Many people will say that abstaining from imposing restrictions is a bad option. Most likely this option would result in more people catching the virus, more people getting sick, and more people dying. And many people believe that preventing these outcomes is of paramount importance, no matter how badly people’s rights must be trampled on in order to achieve this.

As anyone who has visited my blog knows, I do not subscribe to this point of view. But regardless of what you believe about the relative importance of safety and liberty, the choice to prioritize one over the other is just that – a choice. When someone says that they have no choice but to impose restrictions because doing so is necessary to combat the virus, that person is unfairly avoiding responsibility for his/her actions. That person is also treating his/her opinion as fact and denying the possibility that alternative opinions might exist. The decision to impose Covid restrictions results from the belief that fighting the virus is more important than respecting individual rights. Even if you agree with this belief, you cannot just presume it as fact and then blame the restrictions on the virus.

When political leaders, and others who hold positions of authority, choose to prioritize safety over liberty, they must acknowledge that this is indeed a choice that they have made. Restrictions are not imposed by a virus. They are imposed by the government, and the government needs to take responsibility for this.