Coronavirus Diary (59): Arguing About Dentistry Under Lockdown

I had an argument with a dentist the other day about a predictable issue: dentistry under lockdown. The argument turned into a predictable, pointless stalemate.

As a dentist, he was angry that his business was under lockdown. He’s been losing money, his patients are suffering and need medical attention, he knows how to protect himself and others against infectious disease because he’s done it for decades, so he saw no point in delay. Open up now, was his view. (Terminological point: I’ll assume throughout this post that dental procedures are a type of medical procedure.) Continue reading

I Call That a Concession–the Best I Ever Had

Remember Jason Brennan’s loud, proud, and rather idiotic declamations against me at BHL on the subject of police brutality?

Memory refresher: I wrote this post on the subject of non-compliance with government anti-disease-spreading orders. Brennan responded (with Phil Magness in tow) by mischaracterizing my view and defaming me at BHL. In full anticipation of the fact that he would eventually regret his posts and delete them, I copied and pasted them into the comment section of my own post on the subject. I rebutted his claims in some detail, twice, and got no answer from him but a few cheap, embarrassing, off-topic polemical jabs. Continue reading

COVID-19 Narratives (6): Nursing Assistant in a War Zone

Nursing Assistant in a War Zone: COVID-19 at Englewood Health Center
Kendra Francisco

Three to eleven pm was the shift I worked. I remember being at work one evening, looking at the news, and regarding myself as lucky not to have to work with or around COVID patients. Unlike a lot of my colleagues at Englewood Hospital, I wouldn’t need to wear a mask or protective gear because I was just a nursing assistant on a regular surgical recovery floor that Recovery shared with Pediatrics. “We’ll never get COVID patients here,” I remember thinking, “because for one thing, there just aren’t that many cases in the country, and second, kids don’t get it, so we won’t face the risk COVID-positive pediatric cases.” I went home that day without a worry in the world. Little did I know that the next twenty-four hours would change my life forever. Continue reading

Charles “Rob” Roberts, RIP

I’m saddened to report the death, due to COVID-19, of my friend and one-time neighbor Charles “Rob” Roberts, of the Glen Ridge (NJ) Police Department. My deepest condolences to his wife Alice, and his kids, Natalie, Shea, and Gavin. Even in memory, I think of Rob as too vividly alive to be fully gone. I will miss him deeply, as will many others in his family, his department, his community, and beyond.

This is a tweet from the police department in neighboring Bloomfield Township; the Glen Ridge Department will make a formal announcement later.

Notices in, Essex Daily Voice,, and

I first mentioned the story here at PoT back on April 22nd.

Requiescat in pace.

Coronavirus Diary (58): Yet More on the Jersey Surge

I often find myself disagreeing with academics, and particularly academic philosophers, about the value of journalism. Many of the philosophers I know look down on journalism; ordinary reportage seems philosophically jejune to them, and the arguments one finds in editorial writing tend to be weak on precision and rigor. There’s something to that, but I think it could with equal validity be said that academics lack the robust sense of reality and common sense that some of the best journalists tend to have. Sent out into the field, the average philosopher (or data-oriented social scientist) would, I think, quickly fall prey to some version of Meno’s paradox: not knowing what to look for at the outset of the inquiry, and not grasping the significance of what one encountered along the way. By contrast, journalists solve that apparent paradox every day–just without any sense that it is one. Continue reading

Video Killed the Classroom Star

Here’s a half-hour interview with me on Radio Felician University, on the pros and cons of online learning during the coronavirus crisis. I’m interviewed by two of my applied ethics students at Felician, Kiera Benson and Nicole Cacciatore (“Nicole Catch”). The interview aired  in late April.

I find it ironic that after about a decade of industry-wide hype about the imperative to switch all of our classes to a fully online format, now that we are fully online, people are crying crocodile tears about the pedagogical inadequacies of online learning. In other words, online teaching was a panacea before the pandemic; now that there’s a pandemic raging, the imperative is to return to the physical classroom. Continue reading

Sabahat Zakariya: BBC Urdu in New Jersey

Back in 2016, I mentioned the work of my talented cousin, Sabahat Zakariya, at the time a graduate student in journalism and Near East Studies at NYU. Since then, she’s gotten her degree, and moved–of all places–to New Jersey. In fact, she now lives a mere half hour away from me, which would be rather convenient for both of us if we weren’t currently in the middle of a pandemic.

In any case, I’m happy to mention that Sabahat is now reporting on and from New Jersey for BBC Urdu.  Obviously, she reports for them in Urdu–or the mixture of English and Urdu that passes for Urdu nowadays–but you might be able to follow at least some of what she’s saying even if you don’t know the language. Give it a try, anyway.

She’s reporting from Middlesex County, around Edison, New Jersey, a well-known South Asian enclave. Her commentary on life in Jersey is perhaps a little more diplomatic and civilized than my blogging on some of the same subjects--straight factual reporting without editoralization or profanity-laced ranting. But give it time. To quote Prospero in The Tempest, “’tis new to thee.”

Coronavirus Diary (57): Valley-Mt. Sinai Platelet Donations (Update)

Back on April 12th, I posted a call for platelet donations issued by Valley Health and Mt. Sinai Hospitals. I know of a handful of people who’ve donated blood or platelets, including my Felician colleague Amy Dombach and (I believe) PoT’s own Michael Young, but I know of only one person who did so specifically in response to my post. Loyal but low-key PoT reader Chris Paglinco tells me (if I understand correctly) that he donated blood to the Valley/Mt. Sinai program after being presumptively COVID-positive, and getting the idea for a platelet donation by reading about it here. In his words: “They took samples of my blood for antibody testing. If I have had COVID-19, and have the requisite level of antibodies, I will go back and make the actual plasma donation.”* Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (56): Parks and Privilege in New Jersey

About two weeks ago, we had a discussion here about New Jersey’s decision (Executive Order 118) to close its state and county parks, leaving municipalities the discretion to keep their parks open. The rationale for the order was that given the option to use the parks, some people will, but many people will not, observe physical distancing norms. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (55): The Labor Economics of La-La Land

The business and political leaders featured in this NJTV News segment sound delusional to me. They’re talking here as though things will be fine “down the Shore” by June 1, and that there’s a good chance that we’ll have a normal shore season. You don’t need a crystal ball or some sophisticated econometric model to see that that’s ridiculous. Continue reading