Friday Open Forum!

Open Sesame!

Or as Popeye said, “Open sez me!”

The Supreme Court leak and the Roe v. Wade freakout ate the blog this week, but it couldn’t be helped. Maybe the Forum can generate some new distractions.

It’s fascinating that no commenters have surfaced here willing to defend abortion in general and Roe in particular. One of the most useful and enlightening comments ever made on Ethics Alarms about abortion came from a progressive commenter and abortion supporter, the now AWOL Still Spartan. She declared abortion to be a “necessary evil.” Necessary evils are by definition unethical; the only other phenomenon I would put in the category is war. However, except for situations where the life of the mother is in peril, I’m not sure about “necessary.”

74 thoughts on “Friday Open Forum!

  1. I don’t find it fascinating. The fact is that there are almost no die-hard leftys on this site, and there are none for several reasons. I have to say the lest two or three leftys who’ve tried to make a presence on this site have not been all that impressive, and at least three were booted by management here for misbehaving. That does not include the loudest lefty, who also met that fate when he overreached, nor does it include those who walked away on their own. That includes SS, who, supposedly, said she walked away because this site sounded like a bunch of Nazis. That leaves Valky as the last remaining strong lefty here, and she’s been silent, for reasons unknown to this writer. I DO know she often reads these SCOTUS decisions (I won’t say always because I can’t swear to it), so…maybe she’s still working on this VERY long draft, OR, she is, perhaps wisely, waiting until the final decision is published.

    • “The fact is that there are almost no die-hard leftys on this site, and there are none for several reasons.”

      One reason is because they have bad manners and are refractory to correction by the blog host, plus some do not argue in good faith. Perhaps they did not hear the word -NO- very much while growing up.
      I guess that is two reasons.

  2. What’s going on here? Netflix has issued a company memo warning its employees against unbridled wokeness, including the statement: “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you,”

    Pod people replaced top management?
    Just realizing that “woke” doesn’t sell as much as they might have hoped and trying to protect their revenue stream?
    The Elon effect?
    A media corporation growing a metaphorical spine? [Ha, just kidding on this one 😉 ]

    • I think that they are seeing what everyone else is: that the one-party control that came about as a result of the unbridled wokeness of 2020 is not succeeding and is unlikely to last. They know a red wave is VERY likely this fall and, unless either the incoming Congressional majority seriously mismanages things or Biden’s fortunes transform, there’s a better than even chance that a still bigger one may be coming in 2024. They need to be able to function within the market that will come with that, and being woke scolds isn’t going to sell.

    • Netflix stopped growing, which tanked their stock. Providing nothing but woke content limits your audience to nothing but woke people. That market is tapped. If they want to go back to growing, they will have to provide content the non-woke want to watch. This will make the woke employees angry, because they don’t want non-woke content to exist. Thus the memo.

      I got rid of Netflix a couple years ago when they ditched everything worth watching and replaced it with the narcissistic, obnoxious, unwatchable woke content. I replaced Netflix with Hulu. Hulu also has narcissistic, obnoxious, unwatchable woke content, but they do not ONLY have woke content. Hulu has a large library of older tv shows and movies, and they continue to expand that library of older content. They also carry shows like Last Man Standing, which the woke hate. In other words, they cater to more than just the woke audience. Hulu doesn’t have Netflix’s growth problems.

      A company doesn’t need to make itself ideologically pure for one ideology or another. It can cater to multiple audiences, and get money from multiple audiences. This makes better business sense than narrowing the potential market pool to only one market segment.

      I think this is a purely business decision. The memo went out to let the woke employees know that if they don’t like the change in business direction they are welcome to leave. The company cares more about bottom lines than employee temper tantrums. I don’t see this as being ethical or unethical. It is ethically inert.

      • The woke would really like the unwoke to disappear completely. You can hear it when you try to engage them. “This content isn’t for racists, and if you have an issue with it, then the problem is with you.” “That flag is meant to make fascists uncomfortable, and if it makes you uncomfortable, I have to wonder why.” “You’re just upset because you white men aren’t in charge anymore.” It’s completely circular reasoning. This kind of reasoning is ok when it comes to your local ice cream guy saying “there are only two ways to make an ice cream soda: my way, and the other way, which isn’t as good.” Then you just laugh and say “OK, Al, whatever you say, just don’t be stingy with the strawberry syrup.” It’s another when someone tell you “There are two approaches to life, the woke way and the racist way. You decide which you want to be.”

  3. The necessary evil argument is the only one that comes close to making sense to me. Safe, legal, and rare was the mantra for awhile. Now, it’s celebrate and shout your abortion!

    I’m hearing some chatter lately that a small number of employees are no longer officially quitting. They just aren’t showing up anymore. This used to be the case in retail and fast food, but this practice has kind of spread. There’s also the people who date and then ghost their partner without an explanation. Seems like there may be a connection there.

    • “A necessary evil” means that the action is in fact a negative one with bad consequences, but, presumably, not doing it would have worse consequences. These days, the attitude is more like that displayed on Scandal by Olivia Pope, the ethics-free Valerie Jarett expy, who gets pregnant, terminates it without much fuss, and then drinks the wine she can enjoy without issue, secure in the belief this was what was best for her, and no one else gets a say. (Ironically, across the networks on NBC, right around the same time, Chicago Fire’s Lieutenant Matt Casey and Firefighter Gabriela Dawson were lamenting the unexpected loss of their unborn child.)

  4. OK, I have a tragic tale on the importance of incompetence and the ethics of being incompetent, but insisting people do what you say.
    (1) About a month or so ago, I found out we had a serious formula shortage in this country. The Abbot factory in Michigan makes about 50% of the baby formula in this country. After reports of bacterial contamination in Abbot formula, the FDA investigated. They found no source of bacterial contamination or bacterial contamination. They did find a dryer that was too old and needed to be replaced and suspended operation. Fine
    (2) Four months later, the problem isn’t fixed. There is no formula for 100 miles in some areas and there is no sign the problem is being fixed. The FDA insists on following its normal policies on fixing this problem.
    (3) Government orders are required to be filled first, and the government has ordered vast amounts of formula to feed the infants coming across the border, even though most of those infants are breast-fed. So, there is a lot of formula going to waste in government warehouses in case illegal aliens need it, but American citizens can’t have any.
    (4) Orders of European formula (by consumers) are being intercepted and destroyed by the FDA. The US and European authorities differ on how much iron should be in infant formula and the FDA will not allow European formula into the US. It orders it destroyed instead.
    (5) In Caseville, MI, there is a company called Michigan Oven Company (MOCO). It has a GM and about 80 workers. They can design from scratch such an industrial dryer and build in in under a month. Why haven’t they been called by the Abbot factory (also in Michigan)? MOCO didn’t survive the economy.
    (6) A member of the SAGE team that was behind the COVID lockdowns in the US had admitted that they didn’t consider economic, psychological, or educational impacts to lockdowns. They don’t seem to have been aware that such things could happen.

    So, we have a problem that never should have happened (the oven should have been replaced earlier) but now can be fixed because the government pushed lockdowns without being able to understand the possible effects of such an action resulting in the loss if the ability to make a replacement dryer. This is exacerbated by the FDA’s “we are just following orders’ mentality and their inflexibility in (probably inconsequential) standards coupled with the government’s fawning over illegal immigrants and their ‘we have to buy up all this stuff so American’s can’t get it’ mentality (see ammo shortage). This is a problem could have been solved a few years ago by a company of 80 people that didn’t even employ a secretary and now the entire federal government and a company the size of Abbot can’t fix it in 6 months. Our leadership is uniformly incompetent and in the last few years has been obviously killing people as a result. We have to get rid of them or, at the very least, stop listening to them.

    • Wow thank you for that Michael R, and here I thought the ammo shortage was disturbing but at least knowing the government poking Mama and Papa bear will have serious consequences is mildly comforting.

      • I second this. When the government creates obstacles for business we all suffer. When you hear Psaki claim they have been working on the issue from very early on and then Biden claims his administration were not “mindreaders” and only recently became aware of the problem shows just how incompetent, deceitful and corrupt the administration is.
        Trump got GM to retool a factory to crank out thousands of supposedly needed ventilators in very short order yet FDA is just now “relaxing the importation rules” of formula.

    • The only thing I can say is that I’m glad there are no infants in my family. My dad’s generation is reaching 80, my generation have either had our kids and we’re done (my brother, 3 cousins) or we’re never having kids (myself and the five other cousins) for various reasons. The generation after that consists of my one cousin’s two adult daughters, who I never see, my 16yo niece, my one cousn’s twin 11yo sone and daughter, and the two daughters of my other cousin in FL one of whom is just under 13 and who I saw twice including her christening,and the other of whom I think is just under 10 and who I have never met or even seen. We are way past baby food and endless diapers and wipes, and I am damn glad of it. In the meantime, the mainstream media calls all of what you have just outlined “faux outrage.” . .

    • Bureaucracy cannot handle a crisis. it can function (albeit poorly) in normal circumstances, but a crisis exposes the incompetence of the bureaucracy. The private sector moves way faster. Government sometimes exists just to slow things down.

    • Don’t forget the other group that boarded this train wreck. Pediatricians. I just talked to my pediatrician today (my family had to get a new one and I don’t like this one) in regards to the health of my kids, including my baby girl.

      As of two months ago, babies were not supposed to get water until a year because they needed the calories from milk and breast milk, not hydration. This was the rule for at least the last eight years. Today, I am to give my eight month old water to reduce her formula consumption because she “doesn’t really need it”.

      Again, as of two months ago, baby food was neither a significant source of nutrients or calories, but instead a training tool to help children learn to eat, and learn to eat multiple types of food. Today I was told that without proper baby food, my daughter would have caloric and nutritional deficiencies, but to decrease her formula consumption, even though formula is supposed to be a fully nutritional food for any child under one. This was also the medical advice of at least eight years.

      I have no trust left for the medical profession. I don’t know if this has been very recently determined to be best for my child, or if it is a way to support the formula shortage. Why would I trust anyone in these fields anymore?

  5. This is kind of long, but it’s still NY Post succinct. It so perfectly exposes the racism of “diversity, equity and inclusion. Why aren’t more white players necessary to enhance NFL teams by virtue of their providing diversity to the locker room and the field? How can only twenty percent of players being white indicate anything other than systemic racism in football? Why don’t NFL teams look like America? The story is totally self-indicting. Isn’t there anyone in the Packers’ communications department? And why name the woman asking the questions?

    “Mark Murphy, the president and CEO of the Packers addressed the team’s decisions in the 2022 NFL Draft, and a fan inquiry that expressed curiosity as to why “out of the 11 players drafted by the Packers, none are white.”

    Murphy addressed the fan, who is also a shareholder in the team, by name in his monthly Column, “Murphy Takes 5,” which is published on the team website.

    “Marilyn, I can assure you that the NFL and particularly the Packers are not racist when it comes to drafting players,” Murphy wrote. “Our draft decisions are based solely on the players’ abilities and whether we think they can help our team. [Isn’t meritocratic hiring racist and white supremacist?]

    “In case you haven’t noticed, approximately 80% of the players in the league are Black, and it has been that way for many years. [Isn’t that indicative of racism?] There was a time, though, many years ago when teams were reluctant to draft Black players. Vince Lombardi, who was discriminated against because he was Italian, [Look at that shiny object over there!] helped change things when he came to Green Bay and built the Packers into a dynasty by focusing on bringing in Black players. I am very proud of our players, both Black and white, when they speak out on social justice and equity issues. They are in a privileged position as NFL players and can help others who are not so fortunate.”

    The fan, Marilyn’s question read in full: “Out of the 11 players drafted by the Packers in the 2022 NFL Draft none are white. I also looked at the first two rounds of 64 and found that only 11 players drafted by all the teams were white. When I Googled the question of how many white overall were drafted, Google wouldn’t answer it. I wonder why. I sure hope we aren’t going to have to hear all the whining about equity, justice and all the markings on hats and shoes and all else.

    “I suggest the NFL is actually racist for always choosing and highlighting black players. I am sure that is why you chose [Jordan] Love for a QB when he never should have been chosen. I hope the Packers will play the National Anthem and fly the flag high with the planes going over as they always have. Anyone who doesn’t respect and honor our flag and our military heroes does not belong on the Packer roster. So for the 2022-2023 season, let’s just play football and leave all the politics and racism out of the stadium.”

    In his column, Murphy wrote that the Packers’ performance in the 2022 NFL Draft was “successful.” Green Bay added 11 new players to the roster last month, including two first-round picks out of Georgia in linebacker Quay Walker (No. 22) and defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt (No. 28)

    The Packers also picked up three offensive linemen, three wide receivers, an edge rusher, a hybrid linebacker/safety and a nose tackle.” [I love the way sports writers always revert to the mean and report on wins and losses and statistics.]

    I’d say this is a perfect case of “It isn’t what it is,” or “Elephant? What elephant?” Truth is better than satire.

  6. I am very, very concerned about the overall mindset of so many people whose ideology resides far left of the political divide, to say these people have become extremely ideologically obsessive and cultish and they have a echo chamber hive mind that they refuse to allow to be perforated is really no longer a stretch it’s an accurate observation. The patterns that these people seem to be following are clear, pretty darn consistent and really disturbing.

    I’ve been part of a couple of contentious conversations recently with a local Liberal blogger, of some relative prominence in the Madison Wisconsin area, and the absolute blind adherence to pure dogma and transparent psychological projection even when confronted with verifiable contradictory facts is beyond disturbing. This blogger created himself a kitchen and inserted hot topics targeting Republicans and when the blogger realized that his kitchen was getting hot and I wasn’t going to back down on presenting actual irrefutable contradictory facts, he completely cut off communication and banned me. Note: I’ve also been banned from communicating with him via Facebook.

    We see this nonsense all over the USA. These ideologically obsessed people are so brainwashed and so far outside of actual reality that I’d say they’re now irretrievably broken with reality and have no reasonable hope of returning to the fold of reality. When people are so far gone from reality that they could easily be diagnosed by an unbiased psychiatrist as being brainwashed and need deprogramming but there’s nothing we as a society can do to put these wackos away, what the fuck is society supposed to do. We’ve allowed this cultish transition to take place right under our nose and our years of apathy have enabled this insanity to grow, are we just going to have to suffer through this insanity, let the USA crumble into dust and take back our culture via a civil war?

    Is there no ethical and moral way of turning this utter insanity around?

    • All I can analogize it to is an otherwise healthy organism developing a cancer that ultimately grows to kill the host. There are an inordinate number of people in the country who are intent upon destroying the country. It’s bizarre. Many of them are very comfortable and well off. As a matter of fact, everyone in the country is relatively well off and comfortable. Bottom line, it’s a power play. Advocates for the downtrodden simply want to call the shots. The current regime is not to their liking; therefore, it needs to be destroyed and replaced. Marxist thinking. The end of history beckons. They’re nuts.

      • This theory might explain some of what you are describing.

        “In the past, upper-class Americans used to display their social status with luxury goods. Today, they do it with luxury beliefs.

        People care a lot about social status. In fact, research indicates that respect and admiration from our peers are even more important than money for our sense of well-being.

        We feel pressure to display our status in new ways. This is why fashionable clothing always changes. But as trendy clothes and other products become more accessible and affordable, there is increasingly less status attached to luxury goods.

        The upper classes have found a clever solution to this problem: luxury beliefs. These are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.”

    • I had to cut off contact with a dear friend of mine when I realized she was brainwashed and beyond reason. I found out she was parroting all the ‘Trump is a pawn of Putin’ lines seriously on social media. No one can reasonably believe such a thing. It made me realize that if I continued contact with her, she would end up hating me. If I cut off contact, she may eventually come back to her senses and we can reconnect without the bitterness of a falling out.

      Why do I think no one could reasonably believe that Trump was a pawn of Putin? Trump is a narcissist and a sociopath. He has to live near an ocean so there is enough open space for his ego. There is no way he is actually going to bow down and serve Vladimir Putin. We have numerous states with larger GDP’s than Russia. You can see what Trump thought of Europe’s leadership, why do you think he would serve Russia’s? You would need serious, serious evidence to convince anyone with reason that Trump would do such a thing. Opposition research from someone who overrode US law to sell 40% of the US’s uranium assets to Putin isn’t going to cut it.

      • I’ve been screamed at by any number of friends for not being sufficiently apoplectic about Trump. I’ve had to drop them. Absolutely unprecedented. What is it about Trump that drives people so crazy, particularly guys? And these are people who gave Bill (I got blowjobs from interns in the Oval Office) Clinton the highest marks, never mind a pass.

    • Because the far left operates on emotion, and they love seeing themselves as morally superior to everyone else. Inside, they know they are at war with reality, and that’s why they are so defensive all the time. The cognitive dissonance is constantly tearing them up inside.

  7. I recently saw a large banner draped over the fence of a field near the road just outside of a town. It said SAVE OUR TREES, ALL LIFE MATTERS
    It wasn’t in this country..

    Would it be ethical for groups that occasionally put out semi-prankish fliers (often on campus) that say things like “It’s OK to be White”, or “All Lives Matter” to add this one to their quivers? It would undoubtedly be provocative to some, and leave them with a bit of a quandary…“Well, we DO like trees; save the planet! …But, but, Black lives matter, dammit!”


    Fpr them what cares, this is the resolution of the “smoothie” incident in CT. If you don’t feel like reading it, the guy was granted the equivalent of what we call PTI in NJ, where if you stay out of trouble for a year the charges are dismissed. He was also ordered to make a $500 charitable donation, although it does not say to what cause. In the meantime, the guy has landed another job at a firm in Westport, CT..
    Most likely in a year everyone involved will get on with their lives, and that’s probably how it should be. This probably shows the limits of woke culture, who wanted this guy’s head following his idiotic behavior, but not because he acted like a crazy fool, because he dared to reference someone’s immigration status while in a rage.

    The fact is that the guy acted like an idiot and should have handled the situation better. The fact is also that he did not actually physically harm anyone and there were some mitigating circumstances due to poor handling of the situation by the store. What he did does not merit the total destruction of his life, as the woke community seems to believe should be visited on anyone who dares to step out of line. .

  9. There’s currently an approximately $40 billion Ukraine aid package being considered by the Senate. Senator Rand Paul has once again risen above his peers by demanding that an inspector general be appointed to monitor how the money is spent (shouldn’t this be standard on every sizeable aid package?).

    Considering that Ukraine is ranked as among the most corrupt nations, who could possible object to this proposal? Well, here is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s despicable description of Senator Rand’s proposal:

    “It’s clear from the junior senator from Kentucky’s remarks, he doesn’t want to aid Ukraine”

    • Wait. You mean these people want to put Ukraine first? They want to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty and its borders? They believe Ukraine must survive as a unique nation with its own culture separate and apart from one of its neighbors? They want to make Ukraine great rather than diverse and inclusive? Again? Isn’t this fascism incarnate? Don’t Russian tankers and artillery have a human right to migrate to Ukraine? How is Russia a threat? Didn’t the ’80s call and want their foreign policy back?

    • And anyway, no problem. We’ll set up a panel to oversee the money given to Ukraine. We have people with experience in Ukraine: Hunter Biden and the Brothers Vindman! That will take care of it. Integrity!

    • So what we have here is 1) an incompetently written law that anyone with a car could fall prey to, and 2) yet another example of corporations using all the money and lawyers at their command to avoid responsibility, no matter how unethical it is. (No, I don’t want to hear about the shareholders. Maximizing stock value should never take precedence over ethics and accountability. Their lawyers should be negotiating payout, not trying to stop it.)

      When we start overhauling systems, we’ll know who the real villains are by what aspects of the current system they try to protect.

    • Looks as if “the prestigious Elias Law Group” (remember when Hillary was an alleged partner at “the prestigious Rose Law Firm” as if “prestigious” was one of the name partners?) should be called “I Can’t Believe it’s a Law Firm.” Their office is in a shared workspace, but no one ever shows up there? Marc Elias is the most embarrassing, most scurrilous, most un-American graduate of my college since Ezra Pound.

      • “Marc Elias is the most embarrassing, most scurrilous, most un-American graduate of my college since Ezra Pound.”

        It may come as no surprise that there’s a Pound, WI.

        There’s more; it’s a mere 40 miles/64.4 kms NNE from the Holy Grail…Pulaski, WI.

        I can get you’s to WESconsin in but one (1) degree of separation…two (2) tops; eat yer heart out Kevin Bacon…

        • From Wiki:

          “The village and town of Pound were named for Thaddeus Coleman Pound (1832–1914), a Wisconsin state politician and businessman; Pound was the grandfather of the poet Ezra Pound. [Yikes!]

          In 1994 the weight-loss program SlimFast used the town as a trial for its program. Residents believed that SlimFast used the town because of the name Pound; however, the company said they used the town because it had the highest rate of obesity in the United States.”

          Well now, let’s hear it for the SlimFast corporate communications department! Couldn’t they have just huminah-huminahed their way out of that? Or just agreed with the residents’ theory? What were they thinking?

  10. “It’s fascinating that no commenters have surfaced here willing to defend abortion in general and Roe in particular.”

    Oh, I thought it was obvious I was defending abortion. Not Roe in particular, though.

    I’m severely miffed that I appear to be the only person nowadays who’s actually engaging on the whole “when does consciousness/personhood start?” question. Everyone else seems to think that everyone else secretly shares their views on it.

    Abortion opponents seem to think personhood starts at the zygote stage and that abortion proponents agree but are in denial about it for selfish reasons. Abortion proponents may vary widely on when personhood begins, but they seem to think that abortion opponents, one and all, are only trying to use the concept of zygote personhood as a pretext for a sexist agenda and that therefore they can ignore the question entirely.

    I think it’s a serious issue, but the fact that humans allow themselves to be brainwashed into repeating noises that have no salient content other than “we think this is good/bad and if you disagree it’s because you’re evil” lends further weight to my suspicion that not all human adults are fully sapient beings.

    They clearly deserve some rights, and they can be communicated with and negotiated with, but they apparently can’t grasp the abstract concepts that are necessary to live as a responsible person, and they don’t seem to have the integrity necessary for ethics. I’d propose tests of character and intelligence for various privileges of personhood if I thought that enough humans had the character and intelligence to implement them honestly and appropriately and to cultivate successors for the responsibility.

    Ah, well, it’s somewhat of a moot point since abstract thought and integrity are, for most humans, problems of nurture and of their current environments rather than of their nature. These issues are not that hard to fix with the right tools. The education on this planet is abysmal, and it’s high time for me to show humans what they’re missing out on.

    • EC: “I appear to be the only person nowadays who’s actually engaging on the whole “when does consciousness/personhood start?” question.”

      I will give you the benefit of the doubt on your imprecision. I am not sure the question is one of consciousness/personhood, as those are not mutually exclusive.

      For me, the moment of fertilization is the moment when a genetically unique human organism is created (concocted?). It has a complete human genetic profile.

      It’s gender is determined; it’s proclivity for cancer or various diseases may be set. Its likelihood of heart disease may be set. You have a human organism as genetically unique as you or me.

      And it is not conscious. For me, consciousness is not the crucial factor in determining the permissibility of abortion.

      Consciousness falls along a timeframe AFTER you have a human entity. Because fertilization is a unique point where you have a genetically complete and unique organism.


      • I appreciate the benefit of the doubt; I was indeed being imprecise. I consider consciousness and personhood to be related but separate questions, since some animals could be said to be conscious on some level but not enough so to be extended the rights of people in civilization.

        I also appreciate your honesty in discussing the human organism as not possessing consciousness but still in your opinion possessing the rights we ascribe to humans in general. I think I can see where you’re coming from, but it still seems bizarre to me. I would argue the hypothetical people that human organism might eventually become don’t have a right to have us work towards ensuring their existence, even if their genome has already been assembled.

        By was of illustration, it was my understanding that it’s fairly common for a fertilized egg to fail to implant into the lining of the uterus. Instead, it would be expelled from the body and die. Would you consider it an ethical imperative to work towards technology that would ensure proper implantation of fertilized eggs, or an ethical imperative for all women to use such technology if it already existed? If not, why not? Should we be sad anyway that it happens?

        • EC: “I also appreciate your honesty in discussing the human organism as not possessing consciousness but still in your opinion possessing the rights we ascribe to humans in general. I think I can see where you’re coming from, but it still seems bizarre to me. I would argue the hypothetical people that human organism might eventually become don’t have a right to have us work towards ensuring their existence, even if their genome has already been assembled.”

          Two quibbles with your language. Your talk of “rights” brings a great deal of linguistic and conceptual baggage that may not be necessary or helpful.

          As discussed in recent posts, rights are not necessarily ascribed to the fetus. Even Roe and Dobbs (I believe) said “potential life” deserved protection. But, rights? That is a little different.

          As for potential humans, it seems as if modern genetic science seems to validate Aristotle’s notion that the acorn contains the oak tree. I am the same genetic organism I was in utero (and much of my current condition was determined back then).

          Now, as for your claim that the unborn gave a right to endure their existence, it is there that I think you stray too far over the line.

          Yes, fertilized eggs fail to attach. That is a unique human that dies early. It might sadden us, but, in many (most?) instances, we are never aware of that.

          The same is true with miscarriages. They happen. They can be an occasion for sorrow. But, that does not make them preventable.

          We all die. In the next 100 years, several billion people will die, with no one to blame. That is life (and death). But, the inevitability of death does not make murder excusable.

          So, fetuses will die and miscarry. That does not impose upon us an obligation to ensure their existence, though we may undertake that task. But, it may restrict us from actively seeking to terminate that life, whether by abortion or murder.


    • I would be comfortable putting the personhood point at around 8 weeks, when a nervous system develops. It’s not the only item of interest, but excluding the rational exceptions it’s a decent cutoff. One of the things that James O’Keefe’s planned parenthood videos should have done is make people question whether something with harvestable organs should really be considered “not a person”.

      I kind of support a rape exception, but only because it’s the one circumstance in which the otherwise awful organ donation analogy actually does have a point. The analogy still has other flaws but at least it really is someone else creating the situation instead of the prospective mother. I prefer cheap and accessible day after medicines, in which case if you get halfway along you had a reasonable chance to stop things and it doesn’t depend on you finding out you’re pregnant first.

      None of that would make me an abortion supporter, even though I have no significant objections to early ones. As far as I can tell, most nominally pro-life people also don’t embrace the “moment of conception without exception” view (I think 10% of the pro-life movement or so). Conversely, with a 20% support in the general public for unrestricted abortions, the pro-choice movement is much more extreme in it’s leanings, since that would indicate about 40% of pro-choicers suport that.

      But, you know, surveys… I can’t find any solid repeated surveys on any of this.

        • Honestly, abortion seems like an excellent instance of an SMBC comic I like…

          I really wish I could find any reliable polls which aren’t by partisan pollsters, lack leading questions, and don’t lump responses in uselessly imprecise ways.

          • I did find a poll from pew that shows about 8% extreme anti-abortion and 18% extreme pro-legal-infantacide. The presentation feels like a pro-choice person wrote it, but maybe that my bias.

    • You genuinely surprise me, EC. Surely you can see the fatal problem with the “consciousness” rationalization, which is what it is. Nobody denied a fetus its humanity and individual status as a living being with human rights until abortion activists were searching for some way to justify killing it without being guilty of homicide. The “consciousness’ argument is how Peter Singer reached the conclusion that if a near tern fetus wasn’t human enough for legal protection, neither is a newborn. Their levels of consciousness are identical. But that’s not even the worst problem withe argument as I see it—it smacks of the “quick, let’s kill this before it grows a bit more and our rationalization vanishes!” argument. We don’t say sleeping humans aren’t lives; a patient in a coma is still protected by the law because she might wake up.We KNOW that a fetus will eventually be fully conscious and self-aware, unlike an adult in a coma. It’s an argument of convenience, a “gotcha!”

      George Wald, the Nobel Prize winning biologist and philosopher who was by far the most impressive teacher I had at Harvard, discounted the consciousness theory because he also believed a transitory state in a growing human organism was weak justification for declaring it killable. He said that any line between conception and birth to determine when it was a “life” was arbitrary, and said we had to pick one or the other. Well, conception is an inconvenient line, but birth is a monstrous one.

      • Consciousness is not a rationalization. It’s the difference between what we ascribe rights to and what we don’t. If you met a sapient space alien, I assume you’d treat it like a person even though it was not a human being. That’s because you respect its consciousness.

        To me, it sounds intellectually dishonest to insist on the presumption that everyone taking a stance in favor of permitting abortion is doing so for selfish reasons and is in denial that a clump of undifferentiated cells is somehow equal in value to a fully-grown adult human. That’s the same level of thinking that leads those who support abortion to believe that any who oppose it only want to control women and secretly don’t believe personhood starts at conception. I am a being of intellectual honesty to the point of harshness, so I assure you that if there were no genuine merit to the idea of consciousness as a criterion for personhood (or if we could communicate with fetuses and found they were fully-formed consciousnesses with personalities et cetera), I would be dismissing the idea of abortion just as you do.

        I agree that a near-term fetus could be said to have the same level of consciousness as a newborn. Would you agree that a zygote could be said to have about the same level of consciousness as an egg cell? Regarding your analogy, a patient in a coma might wake up, yes. A patient missing a brain will not. Sure, you could stop feeding a patient without a brain and let them die “naturally”, but I’d wager you would not want to do the same thing to a very much conscious but paralyzed person. Brains matter. Brains are not arbitrary.

        This Wald person may be skilled with biology, but I don’t think much of his philosophy if he misunderstood the question that much. Again, the issue isn’t whether it’s a living human organism. The issue is by what criteria it is ascribed rights. I argue that what matters isn’t whether it eventually will house the consciousness of a person, but whether it does right now. (Which it can’t if it doesn’t have a brain yet.) Just because a system will generate a mind if left alone doesn’t mean it has a right to be left alone to generate that mind. I don’t think we want to make a habit of destroying systems before they generate minds, but I don’t think they’re entitled to our protection, either.

        • But using consciousness as the equivalent of life IS a rationalization, because we never did that before we were looking for a justification for abortion.

          “To me, it sounds intellectually dishonest to insist on the presumption that everyone taking a stance in favor of permitting abortion is doing so for selfish reasons and is in denial that a clump of undifferentiated cells is somehow equal in value to a fully-grown adult human.”

          That’s another statement that doesn’t come up to your standards. I have a simple standard on that score 1) admit that a life is involved, because it is, and 2) then explain why the life is less important than the mother’s interests. Absent that, the position is either in bad faith or the result of an unresolved conflict and confirmation bias. The “clump” is a growing organism—that’s not subject to debate. If left alone, it will become a fully functioning human being. A person in a coma, in contrast, will not necessarily. I have not heard a persuasive argument about why the temporary lack of consciousness in the case of fetus is disqualifying for humanity, when it will only improve, while the comatose patient has the right of survival. In any event, the rights of that “clump” don’t have to be “equal in value to a fully-grown adult human.” They just have to be the barest minimum rights: the right to go on living.

          “Would you agree that a zygote could be said to have about the same level of consciousness as an egg cell?” Nope, because the question is irrelevant to the issue. Consciousness is not the determining factor for assigning human life.

          “I argue that what matters isn’t whether it eventually will house the consciousness of a person, but whether it does right now.” That’s an argument of convenience. If you kill it before it can grow to achieve consciousness, then you’re not really killing it? I don’t know why you would find that persuasive…or ethical. In “The Terminator,” the goal is to retroactively eliminate John Connor, the resistance leader in the future, by killing his mother before she can give birth. Does that really equal a lesser unethical act? Saying yes is embracing a technicality over what we know to be true.

          • “But using consciousness as the equivalent of life IS a rationalization, because we never did that before we were looking for a justification for abortion.”

            That’s a logical fallacy. You yourself know that “rationalization” is not synonymous with “false statement.”
            Even if there are people who are using the idea of consciousness as the equivalent of life as a rationalization, that doesn’t mean that what they say is false. If someone suddenly decides to go jogging every morning because they want to have some time alone away from their family, but they use the pretext that jogging is good exercise, that doesn’t mean that jogging isn’t good exercise. The motivations of the people making the statement are only weak evidence of the statement’s veracity.

            “In “The Terminator,” the goal is to retroactively eliminate John Connor, the resistance leader in the future, by killing his mother before she can give birth.” Going back in time to prevent someone’s conception is still murder, because you’d have causal evidence of the person’s existence. As it happens, though, the certain knowledge of a future person’s existence, whether obtained through time travel or precognition, would make it impossible to stop that person from coming into existence anyway. Otherwise there’d be a paradox.

            I’m still a bit perplexed at how it seems that you consider my position not merely wrong or flawed, as I view yours, but completely unreasonable and nonsensical. I accept the possibility that my position may not be the best one, but I’m certain that it’s not entirely without merit, and that the concepts I describe are meaningful and salient.

            Suppose there is a human organism that has a mutation that causes it to develop without a central nervous system: no brain, no spinal cord. It might have peripheral nerves, and we can even throw in a healthy gut microbiome, because I’m given to understand that contributes to human consciousness in its own way. What are the rights of this organism, which is genetically human but missing the brain? Why would we ascribe it those rights? Is it a person?

            Conversely, is Yoda a person? What are his rights? Why would we ascribe him those rights?

            I do not trust the people of this planet to interact with alien life forms if “human life” is the best way they can come up with to define what has the rights of personhood and what doesn’t. (Well, more than I don’t trust them already.) That’s not even getting into the bizarre alien psychology problems, like a quasi-sapient species which doesn’t grasp abstract concepts but which can negotiate and honor simple agreements.

            I’m going to have to teach humans how the different aspects of consciousness work if they’re going to learn how to apply their own consciousness effectively. It’s actually quite impressive how far humanity has gotten without a user’s manual for the human mind.

            • The individual without a brain is, literally, brain dead, EC. It isn’t alive. My mother was brain dead when we pulled the plug on her after she had a massive heart attack during surgery. We didn’t kill her.

              I apologize for sounding like I regard the Consciousness Dodge as unreasonable and nonsensical. That’s not my intent; I can see why it’s appealing once it sneaks into the argument. It’s a favorite abortion rationalization of intellectuals and scholars, who obviously see it as not a rationalization, because it’s one of those bad ideas that seems reasonable—that’s what makes it so repugnant to me. But it began as a rationalization, because, as I’ve noted, those wanting and needing to justify abortion while keeping their conscience at bay came up with it to avoid feeling like they were eliminating a human life. In the case of “Which came first, the bad idea or the phenomenon it was used to justify?” abortion is worse than black slavery in this respect. Whites thought it acceptable to treat humans as property because they really didn’t regard blacks as fully human. (In Ken Burns’ WWII documentary, a black GI says that he was asked, more than once, if he really had a tail.) I have seen no record of the Consciousness Dodge being used before Roe, and while the sexual revolution was in full swing: nothing, not even an unborn child, could be allowed to get in the way of Love, man! In the Manson murders, 5 years before Roe,Sharon Tate’s nearly 9 month old fetus was ripped out of her. Was the violent slaughter her nascent child a victim, or just one of the actress’s wounds? In California, it was treated by statute as if she had lost a kidney, but then California is obsessed with sex and abortion. In a majority of states, the fetus would be a victim, though it wasn’t “conscious” despite having a brain. (It did feel pain, though, we have now concluded.) Do you agree with that?

              If “Going back in time to prevent someone’s conception is still murder, because you’d have causal evidence of the person’s existence,” an abortion is more certainly murder, because at the moment the future “person” is obliterated, you have tangible, actual, visible evidence of that person’s existence: the child. It’s there, and left alone, it will become a fully functional human being.

              I’m fully open to a fair and defensible “line” between when a fetus should be accorded rights, if it isn’t in the category of “Quick, let’s do it now or else we won’t be able to kill it and say it wasn’t really a life.” I just don’t see “consciousness” as avoiding that objection.

              Law is bad at lines, but we have to draw them. A similar problem is statutory rape: it it really more ethical for a 35-year old man to have sex with an 18-year old girl with an IQ of 85 than with a 17-year old girl who is brilliant and precocious? No, but it’s legal, and the latter is statutory rape. We need a line, otherwise we return to 11 year-old child brides. But the line is just a contrivance. When a human life is involved, a contrivance isn’t enough on my ethics scale.

              • 1. I did a bit of research to see if I could find information on how people who supported abortion before the 20th century talked about what it meant to them. I found some references indicating that Puritans allowed abortion until the time of quickening (when the fetus/baby kicks), but they weren’t primary sources so I’m not sure how much salt to take those with.

                Interestingly, I also found information indicating that some of the people who supported bans on abortion across the ages did so because they desired heirs, or additional slaves, or to prevent white, upper-class humans from being outbred. Using your same level of reasoning, I could just as well say that some opponents of abortion were rationalizing the idea of a “human life” having rights from conception in order to support their agenda of using female humans as a means to their goal of producing heirs, more slaves, or more members of their demographic group.

                By contrast, it seems Augustine of Hippo did not necessarily believe that an early-stage abortion was murder, and was explicitly uncertain as to when a human organism received a soul. However, he opposed abortion in general for the religious reason that procreation is part of the purpose of marriage. I salute his intellectual honesty; he could have said that the soul existed from conception in order to lend urgency to his opposition to abortion.

                It sounds like from your perspective, everyone who supported abortion was in denial about doing something evil and finally found a phrase to use to justify their actions. From my perspective, some people may have been in denial, or not cared, or felt horribly guilty. Others already had a sense that a developing human organism doesn’t start out as a person. Then when people heard about the idea of consciousness, the ones who felt guilty were relieved, and the ones who already thought an early fetus wasn’t a person had a better way to explain themselves.

                I’m inclined to give both sides the benefit of the doubt on this issue and take their statements about their own beliefs at face value. The worst thing that happens is they object to something reasonable and reveal their true motives.

                My point is that yes, the consciousness of a human organism is a valid question, and as such it doesn’t matter in the slightest if the people raising that question have an ulterior motive.

                2. When I say “causal evidence of a person’s existence” I mean something along the lines of actually meeting the person and having a conversation with them. If I met John Connor and then went back in time to prevent his existence, that would be murder. If I looked into the future and saw who a conceived child would grow up to be, and then aborted that child, that would be murder.

                Being able to see the future with certainty while still being able to change it makes this a weird thought experiment, though. I could just as easily say that I looked a few centuries into the future, didn’t like what I saw, made a phone call to set some dominoes in motion that resulted in a completely different future, and thereby killed billions of people from my vision (and several generations of their ancestors, too) who weren’t born because their ancestors in the present never met, and other people were born instead. I’m very glad that this sort of causal shenaniganry is not possible, because it would be an ethics nightmare.

                My point here is that it’s understandable but still somewhat backwards to ascribe rights to a hypothetical future person–well, really an effectively infinite set of potential future people–just because we already have a blob of cells which could develop into any one of them. Daydreams of future people are not what I would call “causal evidence.” That’s not a good criterion for deciding what is and isn’t a person that has rights. If we used that criterion, it would cause trouble in the future once virtual life forms (i.e. sapient software) become a relevant concern. (I’m still curious as to what you think of Yoda’s rights.)

                3. I would argue that if a life form doesn’t have a brain (or some alternative seat of consciousness), then we don’t need to ascribe rights to protect its well-being as an individual, although we may want to protect it for sentimental reasons, as we would a very old tree. I would argue that, for example, a human organism without nerve cells has a similar moral value to a plant, specifically because neither has nerve cells, and as far as we know those are necessary for a human-level mind.

                I would argue that consciousness (or “mind”, if you prefer), rather than species, is the reason why we ascribe rights to humans and not to plants. Broadly speaking, I consider “mind” and “person” synonymous, regardless of what the mind is housed in or what form the mindless matter takes. Can you describe why humans and no other life forms are accorded humans rights without invoking a concept of sapience or some sort of mind, higher consciousness, self-awareness, et cetera?

                4. I agree that we need legal lines that may sometimes be contrivances, including your example of the age of consent. I believe that we can come up with a decent contrivance for abortion that meets the needs of most people and still protects nascent human organisms that are starting to develop consciousness.

        • Let me also reduce the issue to its ethical base. Does the Golden Rule favor abortion? No, it opposes it: every human being making the call was once a “clump of cells.” Does Kant? No, in fact he specifically declared using a human life to advance a personal need as unethical. Never mind “rights”—a fetus is a human life being wiped out for a woman’s convenience, because she has the power. That leaves balancing, some version of utilitarianism. But it must be the most brutal, ends justifies the means sort, no? 63 million missing humans who never had a chance to be born is quite a “means.”

          For the record, I wouldn’t vote to overturn Roe for pragmatic, social and legal reasons.

          • Oh…my bias: my son’s birth mother would have almost certainly aborted him if she had been in the US rather than Russia. The fact that he may not have been “conscious” at the moment of death does not make me any more certain that it would have been an unethical act. (He agrees.)

  11. Today’s conundrum: easements, since there’s a high % of legal experts in this blog… as some of you are aware, I’m in ag. Therefore I am oddly responsible for a large amount of land. Western farms are larger than eastern farms, there’s many that top 10,000 acres plus. Recently, indeed, it’s become biennial in nature, we (farmers) have become bombarded with a particular form of quasi deal maker called a “land agent”. My question is… should permanent easements be required to be viewed by a professional attorney? Is it ok for these large companies to promise things they won’t stick to because it’s not in the easement? For example… installing a pump station because you didn’t state “below ground”. Adding fiber lines 30 years after the easement. There’s more, but you get my drift.

  12. I read an interesting story about the 1990 Providence, Rhode Island mayoral race. The six candidates were asked to play a scenario of the then new computer game SimCity. The scenario was designed to simulate 1990 Providence to the best of the game’s ability. Five of the candidates accepted, and each had a go. The candidate who did the best in the simulation, Buddy Cianci, later won the election. The woman who did the worst in the simulation lost her primary.

    I couldn’t find the original article in the Providence Journal; the best I could find is this Vice article from 2015 that went into detail on how the simulation was set up, how the candidates interacted with the new tech, and interviewed several people involved:
    The article does not claim that the results of the game decided the election, though the last place finisher claims the results lost her the primary.

    Outside of a couple of local elections in Europe, the article could not find anything else like this being performed for any election. Given the state of games today, especially with current offerings much more technically advanced than the original game, would having candidates play such a game give any insight into how a potential candidate would perform if elected? Granted, Will Wright, the original creator of SimCity, never believed that his Sim series were more than fun toys that allowed people to build while having fun, and Maxis, the original studio, was very reluctant to create simulators for companies that believed SimCity was meant to accurately portray real city development.

    • 1. Fascinating!
      2. Would having candidates play such a game give any insight into how a potential candidate would perform if elected? I sure doubt it. Governing is management plus politics, and both require interpersonal skills, communication skills, and more that no computer simulations can approximate. Baseball managers can learn the basic nuances of in-game strategy by playing computer game simulations like Strat-O-Matic Baseball, but that’s a small part of the job today.

  13. In small but meaningful acts category-

    Saturday is donut day at the West house. Every Saturday we drive to the neighborhood donut shop and get the kids their favorites. The donut shop always tosses in a bag of donut holes with every purchase. Now, as an adult, we know that bag of donuts holes it worked into the markup on the donuts, but they don’t have to do that and the kids love the “extra” treat.

    With inflation (I say definitively since there’s no other believable explanation to explain the coincidence) the bag of complimentary donut holes has stopped and the kids have one less, albeit tiny, little joy of the community gone.

    Yes it seems frivolous, but the small civilities add up to a bigger civil society.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.