This royalty free map collection contains 33 free color maps including a guard post, ruins and a goblin camp. Each map has a version with a grid and one without.
One stock racist rhetorical tool is to use the stereotype that migrants carry disease to generate fear of migration. This well-worn tool has most recently been deployed against the “migrant caravan” that became a fixation of Trump. Somewhat ironically, migrants to the United States make up 16% of healthcare workers, including 29% of physicians and 24% of dentists. As such, while there is little chance that a migrant will bring a disease into the United States, there is a good chance that one will provide your healthcare. Because of these facts, using disease as a reason to limit migration would seem to be irrational. While someone might advance the reason in sincere ignorance rather than from racism, it is primarily a tool of baseless fear and racism. But, is it true that migrants present no health risks?
If the safety standard is that migrants must present zero health risk, then this standard obviously cannot be met: there is a non-zero chance that a migrant will have an illness that gets passed on to American. As such, it could be truly said that migration does increase the number of cases of illness in a country: more than zero migrants will be ill when they enter, and more than zero Americans will catch some illness from migrants. However, this hardly warrants regarding migrants as health threat. After all, there are non-zero cases in which a migrant saves a life or does something else heroic. But it would be odd to speak of the great promise of a wave of migrant heroism—except in the economic sense. Likewise, speaking of the threat of a wave of migrant disease would be odd and unfounded.
It might be objected that my lack of terror about diseased migrants entails that I favor open borders and support allowing people to simply flow into the United States without regulation and without any health concerns. My easy and obvious reply is that my lack of terror about diseased immigrants entails nothing about my view of immigration policy or borders—except the obvious fact that I do not think that fears of diseased migrants should shape border policy. While I am not terrified of diseased hordes invading America, I do still have health concerns that do connect to the movement of people.
The fear that migrants can bring devastating diseases to the Americas is based on historical fact. When Europeans arrived in what they called the New World they brought with them Old World diseases that proved devastating to the native populations. Smallpox, in particular, decimated the native people—thus greatly assisting the Europeans in their conquest of these lands. If the natives had been able to enforce strong borders and keep the Europeans out, history would be radically different. As would be suspected, modern opponents of migration to the United States do not normally use this as an example when making their disease argument—it, after all, makes it clear that most people who are here now are migrants or descendants of recent migrants. There is also the fact that the situation now is radically different from then.
Back in the 1500s the native people had little or no resistance to European diseases and there was no modern medicine. The situation is quite different today. Migrants coming to the United States will not be bringing in diseases unknown in the United States that can cut down vast swaths of the population because there is no health care. That said, the possibility of global pandemics is a legitimate problem—but such pandemics are unlikely to arise from migrants coming from the other Americas into the United States. As such, legitimate worries about pandemics do not warrant restricting general migration. After all, what generally occurs is vaccinated people migrating from countries with health care systems to the United States. But, what about when this is not the case?
One matter of very real concern is the fact that Venezuela’s health care system is collapsing due to the corruption and mismanagement of its government. One consequence is an outbreak of measles. Health care professionals have been leaving Venezuela, which is making it even harder to address the outbreak—but this migration of professionals will potentially benefit other countries. Citizens of the country have also been trying to flee the disaster that is Venezuela and this creates the very real possibility that people infected with measles will spread to other countries.
Normally, this would not be a very serious problem—vaccination against measles is safe and effective. It was also widespread. However, some Americans have decided to forgo vaccinating their children—thus making some members of the population vulnerable to the disease. Because of this, having people bringing measles to the United States is now a potential problem.
While proponents of the disease argument against migration might be ecstatic about this situation, even this scenario does not warrant the sort of migration restrictions they favor. After all, measles is already here and does not need to be brought across the border. Rather than showing that the United States needs to tighten up the borders, this situation shows that the United States must tighten up the vaccination requirements for citizens to ensure that they are properly protected from diseases that are already here. Vaccines and health care, not a wall, will keep us safe from disease.
Behind the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is the philosophic theory that beauty is a subjective quality that depends on the judgment (or feelings) of the perceiver. This saying could be modified to apply to determining whether an aesthetic object, such as a black balaclava jumper or shoes, is a blackface object: “blackface is in the eye of the beholder.” The underlying principle would be that whether an object is blackface or not depends on the judgment (or feelings) of the perceiver.
If blackface is in the eye of the beholder, then it is up to the beholder to determine whether an object is blackface or not. This might be a matter of judgment or a matter of feeling, depending on the broader aesthetic theory in play. One problem with applying this principle in general would be that whether an object is blackface or not would be subjective. As such, those who assert that an object is not blackface because they do not see it this way would be just as right (or wrong) as those who take the opposite position. However, there is a way to grant a certain audience a privileged right to judge (or feel).
One obvious way to argue for this view is to draw an analogy to insult. Whether something is an insult or not depends on the target of the alleged insult. If the target does not judge or feel that the alleged insult is an insult, then it is not. If the target judges or feels the alleged insult is an insult, then it is. In the case of objects alleged to be blackface, there is the question of who is analogous to the target of a suspected insult
One easy and obvious approach, one that would presumably be favored by those cast as social justice warriors, is that the potential target of any potential blackface object would be blacks. As such, whether an object is a blackface object or not would be decided by the judgment or feeling of black people (and perhaps also those with adequate levels of woke). One could easily get bogged down in the logistics of group consensus, but there are two easy approaches here. One would be to go with the majority opinion of the group. The other would be to break it down to the individual level so that an object could be blackface for one person but not another. While messy and inexact, this does seem to reflect the messy and inexact reality of such judgments (or feelings). Thus, an object would be blackface if the majority of blacks judged (or felt) it is such an object. Alternatively, it could be done at an individual level: an object would be blackface for an individual if they judged (or felt) it was blackface.
One obvious concern here is that whether an object is blackface or not would be subjective. One might raise the objection that under this definition, anything could be blackface, thus opening everyone up for charges of racism. Alternatively, one could argue that if blackface is subjective, then anyone could simply point this out to avoid accusations of racism.
The solution is a messy one: as with disputes over beauty or insults, there would need to be arguments advanced in favor of the various positions and the better arguments should settle the matter as to which interpretation seems to be the most plausible. Even if blackface is in the eye of the beholder, better and worse cases can be made that the judgment or feeling is a sensible one. That no perfect resolution is possible should be expected.
But some might object, being accused of racism has real-world consequences. A person’s career could be ended and their life ruined—surely this should not be left up to subjective judgments or feelings. While, as a practical matter, this is how things tend to work, philosophy does offer a better approach. Turning back to the analogy of insults, there is the question of whether the person making the alleged insult intended to be insulting or not. This can be investigated by considering their history, character and the context of the situation. Likewise, if a work is judged (or felt) to be a blackface object, there is still the question of the intent of the creator. While one cannot know the true heart and mind of another, the creator’s history and character as well as the context can be assessed to reach a plausible conclusion. As such, a person could create a blackface object without intent and without being a racist, just as a person could horribly insult another without any intention to do so. In such cases, the object should be condemned but the creator should be held innocent of racism. Naturally, if the creator’s history and character and the context provide evidence of racism, then that is another matter.
Gucci recently got into trouble because of its black balaclava jumper. This jumper could be pulled up to cover the lower half of the face and featured big, red lips that created, in the eyes of many, the appearance of blackface. The designer of the clothing claimed that he was inspired by the works of a performance artist Leigh Bowery.
Katy Perry, no stranger to accusations of cultural appropriation, was accused of having blackface shoes in her shoe line. Her defenders point out that the shoe comes in a variety of colors and all feature the same face (attached eyes, nose and lips).
Unlike cases in which a person wears blackface, the Gucci and Perry incidents admit of ambiguity. After all, a white person putting on blackface and posing with another person in a KKK costume is a clear statement of racism. Clothing and shoes that can be interpreted as blackface objects still allow room for plausible denial. It is to this matter that I now turn.
One approach to determining whether an aesthetic object like Gucci’s clothing or Perry’s shoe is to consider the intent of the creator. If the clothing designer and shoe designer had no intention to create a blackface object, then it could be contended that the objects are not blackface. This is because being a blackface object is more than merely looking like such an object, it must be created (or used) for that purpose.
In support of this view, it can be argued that since an object of blackface is racist, it requires racist intent to create it. A person who creates an object that looks like a blackface object without racist intent (that is, they are not trying to create a blackface object) cannot be justly accused of racism for that act. To use an analogy, suppose a designer created a design in which some people claim to see pornographic images. If the designer did not intend to create those images, then they should not be considered as pornographers and the work should not be considered a work of pornography.
As a practical matter, the challenge would be determining the intent of the creator. While this can be difficult, the sensible approach would be to consider the person’s history and their explanation of their inspiration and goals. If they have no history of racism and deny that they intended to create a blackface object, then it would be reasonable to accept their assertion of innocence. Naturally, if a person were to persist in creating objects that seem to be blackface objects, then this would tend to indicate that they are creating such objects with intent.
It could be objected that the creators of objects such as the clothing and the shoes cannot plead ignorance. While they might not have intended the works to be blackface objects, they should have recognized how the objects would be seen. After all, anyone familiar with American culture and history should recognize when something would be seen as blackface and they should be aware of the consequences of putting it out for sale. To use an analogy, a designer who accidentally creates a work which most people see as containing pornographic images should be aware of what the work looks like. If they elect to put it on sale while denying they are aware of what the images look like, then they could be justly considered to be selling pornographic images.
It could be replied that the creators might simply be unaware of the history of blackface in the United States or that they simply do not see the objects as blackface objects. Using the pornographic image analogy, the designer might simply be unable to see what other people think they are seeing. If the designers of the clothing and shoes honestly have no idea of the history of blackface or honestly cannot see that their work would be seen as blackface, then they can perhaps be excused. Some might, of course, insist that they should be aware of the history and that they cannot honestly say that they did not see a problem with the objects before it was pointed out by others. In the next essay, I will move beyond the intent of the creator to the perception of the audience.
The new Democrats (“greenocrats”) have proposed a Green New Deal focused on climate change and radically changing the economy of the United States. As would be expected, the plan has been presented in strawman fashion (presenting a distorted or exaggerated version in place of the real thing) by many of its critics. Trump, for example, has taken up the talking points that the deal will “permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military – even if no other country would do the same.” Many proponents of the deal back it without criticism, which is as problematic as rejecting it based on the strawman attacks. In addition to these problems, there is also the label problem.
Boiled down to its essence, rhetoric is all about making people feel positive or negative about a subject using linguistic tools. One key tactic in rhetoric is loading terms emotionally, so that their mere use does much of the work—people feel positive or negative as soon as they hear the word and do not need to wait for any reasons or evidence. The term “green” is one such loaded term.
Proponents of the green tend to feel positive about it, so casting anything as green can elicit an unthinking positive response. This is why the term is used in advertising and politics when trying to appeal to (mostly) the left. Opponents of the green tend to feel negative about it, so casting anything as green can cause an unthinking negative response. As would be expected, people who want to cash in on a dislike of the green also use the term, but they use it as a pejorative rather than as a positive. Since the emotional response to the term “green” has no logical weight, to believe anything based on one’s feelings about the term would be a logical error. Unfortunately, the issues associated with matters of the green are critical issues for the future of the United States and the world. Unfortunate, I say, because the ideology and emotions associated with “green” make it difficult to have an objective and rational discussion of issues of climate change, energy strategy, economics and other critical issues.
One example of this is the Democrats proposed plan to decarbonize the United States in a decade. As noted above, the strawman version seems to be that the Democrats plan is to “permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military.” While decarbonization might require eliminating oil and gas as fuels, this does not entail that all planes, cars and cows will be eliminated. To state the obvious, there are already electric cars and electric planes are a real possibility. However, some proponents of the plan do seem to be blinded to reality by the green.
While electric cars are already viable and it is easy to imagine all new cars being electric (or non-fossil fuel powered) in 10 years, replacing all existing commercial aircraft with aircraft that do not emit carbon seems all but impossible. One obvious problem is creating engines and power sources that have the power and duration to allow for commercially viable flight. While there might be some way to refit existing aircraft to emit no carbon, that seems more like magic than science.
As Trump noted, making a carbon-free military would be problematic. While nuclear power is an option in some cases, military vehicles and aircraft need powerful, high performance engines and without a radical breakthrough in power systems it is hard to imagine that the military can go carbon free while still fielding combat vehicles. While I do love science-fiction and think that fusion powered tanks armed with plasma guns would be cool, I do not see that becoming a reality in the next decade.
While Trump did not mention this, one of the largest problems would be power generation. While coal has been outcompeted by natural gas, replacing the entire carbon producing power infrastructure with non-carbon powerplants is a practical impossibility. While some have mocked the idea of solar power as impossible because of the need for so much space for the panels, it would certainly be possible to phase out fossil fuels in favor of alternative power—but doing so in 10 years would seem to be a practical impossibility.
Given that the 10-year plan is unrealistic, it is a mistake for the Democrats to use that timetable. One obvious problem is the obvious: they are proposing something that is a practical impossibility. Another obvious problem is that if they were to push for the 10-year plan via laws, it is likely that doing so would create more harm than good. From a long-term political perspective, the plan can also do damage: when 10-years pass and the plan is far from being met, the Republicans can run hard on that failure. The Democrats are right to offer a plan for the future, but the timetable should be more realistic, otherwise they are just setting themselves up for failure.
According to the FDA, it “is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.” Given this mission, it would seem to follow that the FDA should put the interest of public health ahead of other concerns, such as the profits of a pharmaceutical company. While many of those employed by the FDA are dedicated to this mission, federal agencies have an alarming tendency to be captured by industry. As such, it is hardly surprising that the FDA has acted in ways that benefit companies at the expense of public health. Charles Seife has provided a documented account of how this can occur in his article in the February 2018 issue of Scientific American. While the legality of this matter is up to the law makers and courts, the ethics of the matter are philosophically interesting.
On the face of it, the moral problem should be easy to solve. Since the FDA is tasked with protecting public health and is a federal agency, its moral duty is to do just that. To act in ways that put public health at risk to benefit a company would seem to be clearly wrong. Part of the problem, as noted by Seife, is that the FDA is very secretive, and this makes it difficult for the public to know the truth about the operations of the FDA and the products that it approves. Another part of the problem, also noted by Seife, is that the FDA seems willing to allow research misconduct to remain unreported.
While it is tempting to suspect foul play when approved drugs are later recalled or given new warnings, it must be noted that this is just what should be expected even when products are properly evaluated. This is because of how the inductive reasoning that governs trials works. While inductive logic is essential, it has a fundamental problem that is called, shockingly enough, the problem of induction. Since an inductive argument’s conclusion always “leaps” beyond its premises, the conclusion of such an argument can always be false—even when all the premises are true. Since the controlled experiments of the trials are inductive in nature, they can be properly run and still yield a false conclusion. These trials are then generalized to the entire population—which is yet another inductive argument and another chance for things to go wrong. For example, even a large sample used in the trials will not contain every genetic or physiological variation relevant to how a drug interacts with a person. As such, a drug that was tested as safe in the trials might yield unexpected results in some people. As such, one should not rush to judgment if an approved drug turns out to be dangerous to some or needs a warning label revision. That said, the concern about how the FDA operates remains—as Seife’s research indicates. As such, the FDA seems to have acted wrongly by putting corporate interests ahead of public health.
One seemingly obvious solution would be to make the FDA’s process and the data it uses completely transparent to the public. Under this solution, the public would have access to everything that occurs within the FDA as well as all the information provided to the FDA by the companies whose products are being evaluated. While this would solve the problems noted above, there is an obvious problem with such complete transparency.
Allowing full public access to the FDA’s information would also allow the same access to competing pharmaceutical companies (and others with a financial interest in the data). Such transparency would allow access to a company’s trade secrets, commercial and financial information; the problem is that this could cause “substantial competitive injury.” To use an analogy, it would be like playing poker and being forced to allow everyone to see your cards. Because of the potential harms to the companies, such full transparency would seem to be morally wrong.
It could be countered that all companies would be on equal footing and hence no one would have an advantage. Going back to the poker analogy, if everyone must show their cards, no one has an advantage. The easy reply to this is to point out that foreign companies that do not undergo FDA approval would have access to the data and this could give them a significant edge against companies that sought FDA approval.
Another counter is to argue on utilitarian grounds: even if the transparency harmed the competitive edge of companies, the advantage to public health would outweigh these harms. The response to this would be argue that the harms to the companies would exceed the gain or that the harms to the companies would also harm the public health. Since these concerns are reasonable, complete transparency seems morally problematic (at least under the current economic system). As such, what would seem to be needed is an approach that protects the public while also protecting the legitimate interests of the companies.
As Seife noted in his article, the information that the FDA has kept from the public includes data about harmful side-effects and concerns about the efficacy of products. This information has been redacted or withheld based on the harm that would be done to the company if the truth about the product’s side-effects and efficacy were known. While it is true that releasing such information would potentially harm a company’s profit, this does not seem to be a morally acceptable reason. After all, the mission of the FDA is to protect public health; protecting private profit at the expense of public health would be a clear violation of this mission.
While a company or individual does have a right to keep certain information private, this right does not extend to concealing danger to others. To use an analogy, while I do have the right to keep my medical records private, I do not have the right to keep an Ebola infection secret. To use another analogy, while a company would have a right to keep its manufacturing process for snacks secret, it has no right to keep secret the fact that the key ingredient is the rats that infest the factory that makes the snacks. The public does not have a right to know their trade secrets; but they do have a right to know if the snacks contain rats made into snacks using equipment covered in rat feces. Likewise, while the public does not have a right to know the legitimate trade secrets of a drug company, they do have the right to know the side-effects and efficacy of the drugs they take. As such, the FDA can fulfil its proper mission of protecting public health while also protecting legitimate trade secrets. Companies that want to profit on concealing data from the public with FDA collusion might be dismayed by this, but they have no moral right to expect the FDA to serve their private interest over the public health—especially when they can still make massive profits by making safe and efficacious drugs.