Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/6/2019: Snowflakes, Catnip, Coups And Fake Bills

Good Morning!

[Here’s a Warm-Up warm-up that has nothing to do with ethics. In “Ben-Hur,” which I watched again last week, Charlton Heston’s character is know by three completely different names. One, of course, is Judah Ben-Hur. What are the other two?]

1. Virtue signaling and pandering are both inadequate to describe this. If only it were a joke—but it appears to be proof of institutional  brain rot.  The British army is reaching out to “selfie addicts,” “snowflakes,” “me me me millennials”—remember, I’m not making this up!—“class clowns”, “binge gamers”,and  “phone zombies”  celebrating the alleged virtues these juvenile behaviors demonstrate, such as self-belief, spirit, drive, focus, compassion and confidence. Here are two examples of the new posters:

To state the obvious, or at least what should be obvious, these are false characterizations of the toxic qualities that have led to the derogatory labels involves. “Snowflakes” aren’t compassionate; they are crippled by political correctness and hyper-sensitivity to the extent that they regard the vicissitudes of the real world as “offensive.”  The “self-belief” of “Me me me Millennials” is a delusion created by a misguided society that elevates self-esteem above self-awareness. An equivalent and no less deranged recruitment campaign would target virulent racists, child molester and serial killers because the Army needs them and their “passion.”

A military that is capable of approving such a bonkers campaign really can’t be trusted by the public it is supposed to protect.

2. So we’re back to this again! It’s a close competition as to which of the New York Times’ extreme left columnists are most outrageous in the slobbering hatred of President Trump. Paul Krugman, Charles Blow and David Leonhardt are closely bunched—a newspaper that was not hopelessly biased itself would not tolerate the excesses of any of them—but Leonhardt, whom I’ve written about before, may have pulled ahead with this op-ed, titled, The People vs. Donald J. Trump—He is demonstrably unfit for office. What are we waiting for?”

Read it, with hands clasped firmly over your head to prevent cranial explosions, and some Pepto within reach. What an embarrassment, especially to those Times readers who are so far gone that they don’t realize how embarrassing it is. What are we waiting for? It’s called “an election.” The fact that those who didn’t vote for the President—like me— because they thought he was unfit for office–were over-ruled by sufficient numbers of voters who concluded, not without some justification, that he was fit enough to be preferable to the alternatives. Leonhardt’s “argument” is essentially a call for a coup, a rejection of Democracy, and a dangerous invitation to single party totalitarianism. I’m sure this was on the way to the press before Rep. Tlait spilled the beans and the Times’ previous editor admitted that the Times is out to bring down Trump’s Presidency, or at least to appeal to readers who are.

Good timing, Dave!

3. Question: “Is it unethical to give your cat catnip?” Answer: Of course it is. Isn’t it obvious? “The Conversation” examines the question with more wigor than someone with functioning ethics alarms should require. Catnip,  botanical name of Nepeta cataria, induces behavior in cats that is similar to intoxication in humans. The difference is that when drugged by the stuff, cats don’t know what is happening. Giving catnip to cats is like giving beer to dogs or pot to toddlers. Almost 40 years ago, when my wife-to-be introduced me to what would become my first pet (the turtle doesn’t count), her Siamese cat, I asked her if she ever gave him catnip. “Never,” she said emphatically. “It’s a rotten and cruel thing to do to an innocent animal.”

4. Boy, do I hate it when politicians use “ethics” as a cover to pursue objectives that are anything but ethical. The “For the People Act, one of the first bills offered by the coup-seeking Democratic majority in the House, claims to be a comprehensive elections and ethics reform package targeting a “culture of corruption in Washington.” Right.

The bill would create automatic national voter registration,  expand access to early and online registration, restore protections provisions of  the 1965 Voting Rights Act struck down by SCOTUS, prevent states from purging their voting rolls, and require Presidents to make ten years of tax returns public.

The bill would also increase federal support for state voter systems, including paper ballots to prevent fraud, and restore voting rights for ex-prisoners, but including some valid provisions in a bill like this is standard operating procedure when the only purpose is grandstanding for the news media and the base. The rest of the bill ensures that it will be Dead on Arrival in the Senate, and should be. But the rejection will give an opportunity to Democratic demagogues, and that’s the real reason for the bill.

  • Voting rolls have to be purged. Leaving names of dead and inactive voters on the books is inviting voter fraud.
  • Apathetic and ignorant voters distort elections and can be easily manipulated—that’s why politicians like them. Registration should be easy, but some effort and interests should be shown by a citizen. Automatic registration is irresponsible.
  • The 1965 Voting Act was unconstitutionally out of date, and gave the Justice Department power to meddle in the election policies of some states based on half-century old evidence of systemic discrimination. This part of the House bill is not only unethical, it is dishonest and deceptive.
  • The tax disclosure provision is virtually a Bill of Attainder, an unconstitutional law aimed at a single individual. Every citizen has a right of privacy, and the government may not disclose private information it obtains for a limited purpose, like tax collection. Voters are free to come to whatever negative conclusions they choose when a politician refuses to reveal his or her tax returns, but it must remain the individual’s choice to disclose or not.



43 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/6/2019: Snowflakes, Catnip, Coups And Fake Bills

  1. 4. Aren’t the requirements for Presidential candidates set out in the Constitution? Wouldn’t requiring a candidate’s tax returns for the prior ten years need an amendment to the Constitution?

    Of course, Steve Cohen has introduced a bill to eliminate the Electoral College and go to a direct majority vote. Via an act of Congress. What a moron.

    • Can you imagine what would be going on if there were a Democrat majority in the Senate and a Democrat president? Or even a veto-proof Democrat majority in the Senate? And a Democrat majority on the Supreme Court? Yikes.

          • No, and it would have been unconscionable for him to try. McConnell, like Harry Reid and Pelosi, shares much of the blame for the state of politics now. The Merrick Garland gambit, though technically legal, was the equivilent of dropping an A-Bomb

      • None of these things would be an issue.

        The Democrats have no problem with the Electoral College when a Democrat sits in the Oval Office. They certainly wouldn’t demand their candidate release tax returns. And, since they are bound and determined that there is no such thing as voter fraud, why should dead voters be purged from the roles…there are all those plucky undocumented migrants who can take their names, er, I mean places!

        • I think all voter rolls should expire every 5 years. Everyone should have to go in and reregister. I go in every year to renew my car tags. Having 20% of the voter’s registrations expire each year shouldn’t be any more difficult to handle.

  2. On the catnip question, what I want to know is if catnip is like alcohol or narcotics in other ways…are there harmful side effects, or withdrawal symptoms? If catnip is like human drugs in THOSE aspects, then yes it’s unethical because it’s unhealthy for the animal. If not, then I don’t see a difference between a cat getting off on catnip and getting off on being petted in the perfect sweet spot.

    And seriously the Conversation article quotes PETA, how much credibility can you really give it?

  3. 1. I guess this is what institutional desperation looks like. I remember the U.S. Air Force running a recruiting commercial showing skater dudes skateboarding down a winding ocean-side road in a blatant and somewhat desperate attempt to get them to fly fighter jets. I have no idea whether that campaign worked or not. Who knows, may have gotten non-skater dude kids to sign up and maintain or guard fighter jets.

  4. And now, the Ben Hur answer:

    He is called Judah Ben-Hur by his family and friends in Judea.

    He is renamed “Arrius” by his adoptive father, Quintus Arrius, whom he rescues at sea. The Romans call him “Arrius.”

    However, when he is a condemned man manning the oars as a galley slave in a Roman battle ship, he is officially named, and is called only, “41“.

  5. On point 3. I do believe trying to intoxicate a pet or animal for one’s own amusement is unethical.

    However, given that I have been a multiple cat household for over 35 years I can attest that you need only bring tbe herb into the home to see that the animals actively seeks it out. It does not matter where you try to hide it they will find it, open it and wallow in it. This begs the question, is it unethical to bring such products into the feline’s human delineated environment or is it unethical to deny the cat the opportunity to seek it out naturally in the wild.

      • Except as Gamereg brought up earlier- catnip isn’t bad for cats. Providing scotch to an alcoholic is unethical because you’re enabling him to voluntarily harm himself. If catnip is harmless, the effects are temporary, AND cats affirmatively desire it, why is it unethical just because it’s also amusing to watch? By that logic it’s unethical to give a kid cake on their first birthday because adults think it’s amusing that they eat it messily.

        • ”By that logic it’s unethical to give a kid cake on their first birthday because adults think it’s amusing that they eat it messily.”

          Not saying yes or no, we gave our babies a “smash cake”, because they genuinely enjoyed it. Not because it’s amusing.

          BUT, have we ever sat down and asked and seriously considered if such a tradition is or is not unethical?

      • According to several veteranary sites the active ingredient nepaticolone (sp) works the same way as dark chocolate does in people execept that it merely mimics the release of endorphins. It is neither habit forming nor toxic. Unlike people and chocolate, cats will walk away from catnip once they have their fill. Thus,
        it is not the equivalent of leaving an open bottle of scotch around an alcholic.

        Beneficial uses include use as a training aid and stress reducer when transporting animals or introducing new cats into the family.

        Unlike feeding alcohol or promoting the forced inhalation of cannabis smoke which alters brain chemistry, the animal is neither drunk nor high on catnip. To me there is a major distinction between providing a cat with catnip and getting them high.

        Given that all my cats have lived well into their twenties, I consider myself one that provides the best possible life for a family feline and would not purposely harm one for my amusement.

      • Catnip, though, doesn’t appear to be habit-forming in cats. We grow catnip in our garden (it’s a good mosquito repellent and a mild sleep aid in herbal teas), and sometimes leave a small satchel of it out for the cats to play with. They will seek it out once in a while, get goofy for a few minutes, then leave it alone for weeks or months at a time. This is a significant difference from the way an alcoholic consumes liquor.

    • Cats are by nature and genetics clever little schemers.

      I have an abandoned kitten we adopted and nursed to health. She was just barely able to eat semi solid foods, and was so sick we thought she would die. She never really has been exposed to other cats, so got substantial no social cues from mamma or siblings, who were all dead when she was discovered.

      That said, we have two dogs. One of them knows he is a dog: the other learned she was a dog when the first joined the household (he taught her to bark, among other things, that she never thought of.) These dogs raised the kitten. Therefore she thinks she is a dog with claws. And special privileges.

      I can therefore speak to what is genetic and intrinsic for cats, or at least this one. She has many of the same behaviors as other cats. She stresses over the same things. She has similar vocalizations. And so on.

      (She also plays ‘fetch,’ I kid you not. With a rubber mouse. Up the stairs. I have gotten her to play for up to 15 minutes at a time, but she usually lasts 5)

      That said, we buy her cat appropriate toys, as boredom (like in a dog) produces holes in things better off without them. Some of these toys I blace in a small bowl which is placed into a larger bowl that has catnip in the bottom. The large bowl is sealed, allowing the scent to permeate the toys. She loves these toys. She acts just as silly with them as she does if exposed to catnip itself. This makes me doubt there is an addiction process at work. She also gets up and walks away when done with the experience, as others have commented here.

      I do not believe ethics apply, unless allowing her to misbehave through being underestimated (AKA ‘being a bad owner) is unethical. That would make catnip an ethical option.

      PS: we usually give her these and leave her alone: her silliness is not for our amusement but to give her needed stimulation.

  6. Cats do not get any more high or drunk on catnip than do people who pass by bakeries and steak houses. Both of the chemicals emitted produce a hunger response when they bind with receptors in our olfactory bulbs. Cats are only reacting to a smell. Some will be affected and others will not.

    Despite the claims made about it altering mood – ie happy versus depressed, the smell does not alter mood at all it merely stimulates activity. What may appear to be drunken behavior such as rolling on their backs or grasping toys is typical play behavior with or without catnip. I can induce similar more long lasting aggressive play with a laser pointer. The fact is that cats will seek out the substance whether inside or out. I keep purchased catnip in a metal can to prevent them from just ripping apart the cellophane bag. It does not matter. The cats will still attempt to open the can just as they do when a new bag of dry food is brought in. They are not hungry they are reacting to a smell.

    Nepetalactone the active ingredient in catnip does not directly affect the brain of the cat as does THC, alcohol and other “drugs” because it does not cross the blood brain barrier. Nepetalactone binds with protein receptors in the olfactory epithelial tissues that triggers neural impulses – primarily sexual in nature. The very fact that it is not metabolized and does not cross the blood brain barrier is why the effect is short lived. That hunger sensation dies away the moment we get upwind from the steakhouse.

    From Scientific American:
    “Nepetalactone, one of catnip’s volatile oils, enters the cat’s nasal tissue, where it is believed to bind to protein receptors that stimulate sensory neurons. These cells, in turn, provoke a response in neurons in the olfactory bulb, which project to several brain regions including the amygdala (two neuronal clusters* in the midbrain that mediate emotional responses to stimuli) and the hypothalamus, the brain’s “master gland” that plays a role in regulating everything from hunger to emotions.

    The amygdala integrates the information flow from the olfactory bulb cells and projects to areas governing behavior responses. The hypothalamus regulates neuroendocrine responses through the pituitary gland, creating a “sexual response.” That is, the cat essentially reacts to an artificial cat pheromone.”

    Our behavior is often affected by smells, their congruency to the environment, and their relative strength. Thus, if providing a smell that affects autonomous behavior in cats irrespective of whether we know the smell will be positively received or negatively harmful is unethical then the same must be true for all scents imposed upon society.

    Our own sensory organs, taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing affect our behaviors but sensory stimulus up to sensory overload is not equivalent to getting high. Most of us, I expect can conjure up fond memories from a simple smell; freshly baked cookies are often used by realtors – is this ethical? Others will find the woman wearing a specific perfume absolutely intoxicating because of the chemical properties of the perfume and the binding effects on their olfactory tissues while I may be totally unaffected. Is she engaging in some unethical behavior because another responds positively (altering behavior) to those chemical properties?

    Given this is not a supposed to be a discussion on the pharma-kinetics, or lack thereof, of Nepetalactone but on ethics I would like to point out we have used smells to subliminally affect behavior daily. You might wish to read

    At the risk of being ridiculed for preferring cats to dogs, I currently provide care for 9 indoor cats and 2 semi-domesticated feral cats (Spayed with shots). The feral cats winter in relative comfort in a heated enclosure and are 15 years old and at an age that is twice the life expectancy for domesticated outdoor cats. The average life span of my indoor cats over the last 35 years is 22 years.

    I take great pride in providing a healthy safe environment for all animals in my care and perhaps I take some umbrage when Debra Merskin, University of Oregon, writes an article on the ethics of providing catnip to a cat. Moreover, there are several factual errors in her piece as well as inflammatory sub-headlines such as catnip oils are concentrated – false, and catnip is Kitty Crack.

    Maybe I am just too sensitive but when I read the abstract for her book I concluded nah just more genuine frontier gibberish. (see below) I get aggravated at people that theorize about animal welfare and do nothing else.

    “This book brings together sociological, psychological, historical, cultural, and environmental ways of thinking about nonhuman animals and our relationships with them. In particular, ecopsychological thinking locates and identifies the connections between how we re-present animals and the impact on their lived experiences in terms of distancing, generating a false sense of intimacy, and stereotyping. Re-presentations of animals are discussed in terms of the role the media do or do not play in perpetuating status quo beliefs about them and their relationship with humans. This includes theories and methods such as phenomenology, semiotics, textual analysis, and pragmatism, with the goal of unpacking re-presentations of animals in order to learn not only what they say about human beings but also how we regard members of other species.”

    I have always interpreted the biblical statement regarding man’s dominion over the beast as to mean we are the protectors of animals not their rulers.

  7. I actually see more reason in recruiting racists, child molesters, and serial killers into the military than such people. In the first group are people that we can sequester from the rest of society and utilize in a dangerous, essential role for the country (killing foreigners who need to be killed). Someone once told me earnestly that “Violent people can’t be allowed in the military”. I responded that I want the violent people in society to be in the military. I would rather them be in the military where their violent tendencies can be put to constructive and productive use rather than becoming day care workers or rotting in prison for their entire lives.

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