Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/19/2018: Thinking About Things That Matter While Ignoring The Royal Wedding Hype Edition

I can’t say it’s a good morning..

…since it’s been raining for three days already, with no end in sight..

1. I wonder how long before he’s fired? Instead of renewing his earlier call to repeal the Second Amendment, resurgent lone conservative New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens spoke truth to abused power by condemning the news media in today’s column. He writes in part,

When Donald Trump takes his swipes at the “disgusting and corrupt media” and tens of millions of Americans agree, it’s not as if they don’t have examples in mind. Consider this week’s implication by major news organizations that the president described all illegal immigrants as “animals” during a White House roundtable with California officials. That would indeed be a wretched thing for him to say — had he said it. He did not. The Associated Press admitted as much when it deleted a tweet about the remark, noting “it wasn’t made clear that he was speaking after a comment about gang members.” Specifically, he was speaking after a comment about members of the Salvadoran MS-13 gang, infamous for its ultraviolent methods and quasi-satanic rituals. To call MS-13 “animals” is wrong only because it is unfair to animals….We have a president adept at goading his opponents into unwittingly doing his bidding. They did so again this week. Those who despise him for his deceits should endeavor to give no impression of being deceitful in turn.


2. Briefly noted…Today’s Times editorial is a graphic about how “Congress has dithered as the innocent get shot,” despite the fact that no “sensible gun control measures” would have prevented yesterday’s shooting in Texas…just gun confiscation, if that were possible, which it isn’t. Two letters in the letters section make the same contradictory, yet probably sincere, point. “Another day with the reality that sane gun control is a national emergency.”

3. I have to think about this when I’m not running out the door to a seminar...There are lots of stories out there now about James Harrison, an 81-year-old Australian known as “The Man With The Golden Arm.” Like this one:

James Harrison, 81, has an antibody in his blood that is used in the production of Anti-D, a medication that prevents Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn. The potentially fatal condition can cause anemia, liver and spleen enlargement, brain damage, heart failure and even death in newborn s.Anti-D injections keep a pregnant woman who is Rh(D)-negative from developing antibodies in her immune system that could harm an Rh(D)-positive baby. Approximately 17 percent of pregnant women in Australia need the injections, which come from a  pool of less than 200 Australian donors.Harrison made his 1,117th and final donation to Australia’s Anti-D program on Friday, May 11, after a six-decade blood-donation span that helped an estimated two million Australian women and their babies, according to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.Harrison’s donat…ions helped Australia to become the first country in the world that can supply enough Anti-D for its own use, according to Red Cross spokeswoman Jemma Falkenmire. In 1999, Harrison received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the country.

Did Harrison’s magic blood  obligate him to turn himself into a lifetime human blood supply? If it had been discovered that he had life-saving blood, would there be any ethical argument that his country could force him to donate? Is he the human exception to Kant’s Categorical Imperative?

4. Well, ethics points for candor: Andrew Sullivan in his latest column.

In one respect, it seems to me, the presidency of Donald Trump has been remarkably successful. In 17 months, he has effectively erased Barack Obama’s two-term legacy….If Trump has destroyed Obama’s substantive legacy at home and abroad, the left has gutted Obama’s post-racial cultural vision. And those of us who saw him as an integrative bridge to the future, who still cling to the bare bones of a gradually more inclusive liberal order, find ourselves on a fast-eroding peninsula, as cultural and political climate change erases the very environment we once called hope.

I’ll examine the column in more detail in a later post. For now, I’ll only comment:

  • Little of Obama’s so-called “legacy” was real or positive.
  • “Post-racial cultural vision?” Post-racial rhetoric, maybe. Nothing Obama actually did promoted any post-racial vision, just a racially divisive culture.
  • Those of you who saw him as an integrative bridge to the future were conned, and many of us saw that years ago.

18 thoughts on “Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/19/2018: Thinking About Things That Matter While Ignoring The Royal Wedding Hype Edition

  1. Regarding #3, Mr. Harrison is undoubtedly an ethics hero of the highest order.

    A mandatory blood collection program, howevee, would sound a awful lot like Maze Runner, where children with antizombie antibodies are rounded up for there blood.

  2. So if we do not have sane gun control, does that mean that the 1934 National Firearms Act and the 1968 Gun Control Act are insane?

    Funny how those people who call gor “sane” gun control laws never call for repeal of insane gun control laws.

  3. Today’s left-liberal consensus is that Obama, however revered he may still be as president, was and is absurdly naïve in this respect: that there is no recovery from the original sin, no possible redemption, and certainly no space for the concept of an individual citizenship that transcends race and can unite Americans. There is no freedom here. There is just oppression. The question is merely about who oppresses whom.

    The idea that African-Americans have some responsibility for their own advancement, that absent fatherhood and a cultural association of studying with “acting white” are part of the problem — themes Obama touched upon throughout his presidency — is now almost a definition of racism itself. And the animating goal of progressive politics is unvarnished race and gender warfare. What matters before anything else is what race and gender you are, and therefore what side you are on. And in this neo-Marxist worldview, fully embraced by a hefty majority of the next generation, the very idea of America as a liberating experiment, dissolving tribal loyalties in a common journey toward individual opportunity, is anathema.

    I wish Mr. Sullivan would provide evidence that this is actually true.

  4. Regarding Harrison…it’s worth emphasizing that he wasn’t the only such donator they had available. They’re rare — there’s only about a hundred and twenty of them in Australia, as I recall — but he was by far the most generous and prolific.

    He was also one of the earliest ones, and he’s donated as much as he medically could for as long as possible — and is only stopping because the doctors are telling him that continuing to donate would be dangerous to his health (and thus they aren’t letting him continue).

    All of this tremendously effects the ethics calculus that applies to your questions.

    Did Harrison’s blood obligate him to donate as much as he did? Maybe in his mind and by the standards he held himself to, but that’s another matter: He chose to do so, dedicating himself to the cause, and did tremendous good by doing so. Had he done otherwise, well, kids would have died and Australia’s doctors would have had to look harder and longer for sources of Anti-D, but maybe someone else would have stepped up in his stead — he was never the only one who could.

    To my mind, he was no more obligated to do so than anyone else who sees a chance to do tremendous good or who sees an evil that they can prevent… but very much deserves to be called a hero for deciding to actually do so.

    Beyond that… everyone has life-saving blood, and there’s a constant shortage of it. That’s the reason for the donation trucks, the constant blood drives, and the other assorted efforts to acquire more that you see on a regular basis. If it was still healthy for me to donate, I’d be doing so just as often.

    Does that justify a government mandate?

    I can tell you right now that the main reasons such things have never been seriously considered are entirely practical. It’s a routine lesson in medical ethics classes and books: the costs of attempting to force people to donate would be horrific.

    Of course, it’s also a routine question as a hypothetical… and as one, it’s never really been “solved”… just like most questions in ethics.

        • Umm… no, that doesn’t make it an update. For it to be an update, it’d have to, well, update something, and context — that is, posting it as a comment on this entry — suggests that it is one of the things covered here: Stephens’s editorial, the Times’s editorial (or the school shooting it was about), Harrison’s blood donation, and/or Sullivan’s column (or Obama’s legacy, or one of the comments Jack made about them).

          The story doesn’t do any of that… which, honestly, suggests that it’s mislabeled as an update at best.

          At worst? It’s an editorial site, with a transparent political agenda, of a sort that I generally find to be low-reliability sources at best. Hell, it even references “Truth” in its title.

          On top of that, the site doesn’t provide source links — or even sources — instead providing only advertising links.

          All of the above are pretty clear signs of fake news — genuine fake news — of the incendiary click-bait variety. Looking further, we find a number of other indicators — like the fact that Quickbooks is a piece of accounting software rather than a payment system.

          Overall? Barring additional evidence, I’m going to dismiss your comment as simply another example of clickbait spam.

            • Except that a number of people have been using the term “fake news” to describe things that aren’t.

                • That said, a broad definition of “fake news” is helpful. Yesterday I saw a story headlined, “Roger Stone says Trump might not run for re-election.” This is fake news by my definition. What someone says someone else “might do” in two years isn’t news. It’s in the fake news sub-categories of psychic news and future news, and designed not to inform but to stir the pot. “Genuine” fake news I assume to be deliberately fabricated stories to deceive.

                  • I wouldn’t consider that fake news (assuming Stone actually gave the quote) — just reporting on something insipid and less than newsworthy to help further a political agenda… or maybe to pander to people who hold one… if there’s a difference there.

                    That said, I also don’t consider motive at this level of analysis. I’d leave out the “deliberately” and “to deceive” bits in your summary. Ultimately, I’m left with a definition pretty much equivalent to the plain English meaning of the words: If the news is fake — ie. phony — it’s fake news.

                    • I see the argument: Charles Green makes the same point. I regard fake news as misleading reporting through incompetence, bias or malice that is not intended to inform but deceive, influence, inflame or mislead. News is objective, accurately reported information that has intrinsic use and value and is reported to inform. Anything else is not news, masquerading as news, in order to have the force and credibility of news. Thus: fake news.

    • Well, they sell guns and they are pro-gun so they have no legal rights. If you are in the firearms business or a conservative, you are not eligible to have web hosting service, advertise your services, have credit card services, get an education, buy food, rent an apartment, buy a house that has a homeowner’s association, own a car, etc. OK, that was extreme and most isn’t true yet, but where does it end? Youtube can tell you you can’t post content. Why? Aren’t they a service provider? Why do they get to determine what you post? Isn’t that why they are legally not responsible for your content, so that unpopular ideas can be expressed? They claim they need to ‘protect’ others from your ideas, because…??? Patreon can refuse to allow you to have an account. Why? Same thing. Web hosting companies have cancelled accounts of conservatives for the same reasons. Magazines and cities can say you can’t advertise or can’t have a business. Quickbooks now can refuse to do business with you. Colleges can harass you for being an ‘unsafe person’ and you can be punished for expressing your ideas in class. Employers are forbidden to hire you or required to fire you. Where does it end? Could the grocery store refuse to sell to you? What about a car lot? A business sign maker? Could a home-seller refuse to sell or an HOA insist you change your profession or your political opinions? Legally, you are only allowed to believe certain positions in today’s society. Almost all of society has policies to keep ‘wrong’ ideas from being allowed to be expressed. If you dare engage in ‘wrongthink’ you will be punished and no one is allowed to help you. Soon, you won’t be allowed to exist. We call this behavior tolerance.

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