Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/8/2020: War, Defamation, Bias, Abortion…What Fun.

ARRGH!

Another day, another “crisis”…

Current reports indicate that Iran regards its casualty free missile strikes last night as a sufficient “tat” for the killing of their master terrorist “tit.” If so, the “ARRGH! WORLD WAR III!!” anti-Trump hysterics were, as usual, wrong, and just embarrassed us, nothing more.. Meanwhile, Iran is refusing to hand over the black box of the Ukrainian airliner that just coincidentally crashed right around the time the missiles were flying. The fact that so many Democrats have allowed their brains and loyalty to rot to the extent that they defend  this awful place in order to attack their own nation’s President is all we need to know about the trustworthiness of their party.

1. Wrapping up the Golden Globes’ ethics issues…Michelle Williams is getting predictable hosannas from her acceptance speech at the Goldden Globes, in which she thanked abortion for her success. She said she wanted a life “carved by my own hand” and “wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose.” The New York Times called these words “potent.” I call them deceitful. I’ll praise an equivalent speech when the woman has the integrity and courage to thank the human being who involuntarily gave up his or her chance to carve out a life with their own hand. The use of “choice” as euphemism for “I get to kill someone who stands in my way” is self-deception.

2. Thinking about Trump’s threat...The President backed down from his threat to target Iranian cultural cites in retaliation for any attacks on Americans after being informed that this would be a war crime under international law. I confess, I did not know this was prohibited, and I am not certain what to think about that. I knew the destruction of ancient architecture and important cultural cites became an issue for the Allies in World War II, but this has yet to make sense to me. The whole concept of the “nice” war is ethically incoherent. The idea of war must be to win as quickly as possible, minimizing deaths and chaos on both sides, especially one’s own. If the prospect of losing a nation’s treasured cultural structures is a deterrent to war, then to say that has no “military value” is simply not true. If you can’t tolerate risking your cultural treasures, don’t get into wars.

The values involved in this controversy are also incoherent. In “The Monument Men,” George Clooney’s sort-of accurate account of the special forces whose job was to track down and rescue great artworks stolen by the Nazis, the question is asked repeatedly, “Was retrieving this painting or statue worth sacrificing a human life?” I have no problem voting “Sure!” If the question is changed to refer to a thousand lives, or 10,000, I’m not so sure. Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/4/20: Abortion, Ann Althouse, A Big Lie And The Big Stupid

Good morning!

We’ve started a year without a dog enriching each day for the first time in over three decades. Don’t like it much.

1 . Lobbying the Supreme Court against abortion.  207 members of Congress — 39 senators and 168 House members from 38 states — filed  an amicus  brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold a Louisiana anti-abortion law when it hears the case in March, stating they “have a special interest in the correct interpretation, application and enforcement of health and safety standards for elective abortion by the people of the states they represent.” In the brief, the mostly GOP legislators (two Democrats also signed on) implore  the Supreme Court to uphold a lower court’s decision to let stand a Louisiana statute that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is being performed. SCOTUS declared virtually the same law unconstitutional in Texas; the argument for this law is that Texas is bigger than Louisiana.

I’m serious.

The Center for Reproductive Rights argues that the Louisiana law is really an effort to “regulate abortion out of existence,” claiming that only one physician in the state would be able to  provide abortions if the law is allowed to stand.

Oh, I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going on.

2. Another Big Lie. When I went to a local cineplex to see “Ford vs. Ferrari,” I was stunned at how few employees were in evidence at a movie house with 18 screens and hundreds of people buying tickets. There was one human being selling tickets, the rest were dispensed by automated kiosks. There were no ticket-takers at all; we figured out that we could have just walked into any of the theaters without showing a ticket to anyone. To buy drinks and snacks, I  had to stand in a line for over 20 minutes, because only one person was filling orders. Continue reading

Last Sunday Of The Decade Ethics Alarms, 12/29/2019: Herman Kahn Rolling Over In His Grave Edition

Good morning!

In my one, fortuitous one-on-one conversation with futurist Herman Kahn, then regarded as the most brilliant man in America, he observed that society periodically for forgets everything it has learned over the years, and then chaos reigns temporarily until bad ideas and horrific mistakes re-teach the lessons that once were accepted as obvious. He was talking about the Sixties, but it is clear that this is another one of those periods. Kahn also noted that some of the forgotten lessons are re-learned too late to save society from permanent harm. The Sixties gave us socially acceptable promiscuous sex and the resulting normalization of children born out of wedlock, the re-assignment of of abortion as ethical (somehow) rather than criminal, and societal sanctions of recreational drug use.

Nice work, Boomers…

1. Speaking of abortion...can there be a more empty, fatuous justification of it than what Senator Cory Booker tried last week? ”Abortion rights shouldn’t matter to men because women are our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends,” Booker tweeted. “They should matter to men — to everyone — because women are people.”

How profound. Nobody has ever disputed that women are people, and Booker’s non-logic—the statement compels the response, “And SO…????”—is an appeal to emotion without substance. It also makes its own rebuttal screamingly obvious to anyone but a pro-abortion zealot: “Abortion should be repugnant to men and women…and Presidential candidates…because unborn babies are living human beings.” Continue reading

End of A Horrible Week Ethics Warm-Up, 12/6/2019…

Ho Ho Ho Crap!

1. “Radical? What radical?” Stanford law professor Pam Karlan, who stood out as a neon beacon highlighting 2019 Democratic Party extremism when she turned her House testimony on impeachment into an unhinged, Trump-hate rant including a cheeap shot at Barron Trump’s name, was apparently too radical for Barack Obama, says Legal Insurrection. He appointed far more moderate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, despite Democrats then being in control of both Houses.

“Fast forward to 2019, and this radical Obama SCOTUS reject is a star witness for the Democrat impeachment circus,” the blog notes. “It’s surreal how completely the Democrats have removed themselves from any semblance of rational thought when it comes to their impeachment obsession.”

If we regard the public as the jury and the House Democrats as prosecutors, how can one explain putting such an angry, ugly, biased and partisan fanatic on the metaphorical stand as an “expert witness”? Isn’t that gross incompetence? What’s going on here? In fact, let’s poll it. Who knows, maybe it will draw almost as much interest as the Peloton commercial poll, the second most active in Ethics Alarms history (so far). (But then there were more Google searches on “Peleton” than “impeachment” last week, so we know what American priorities are…)

2. Polls suggest that public opposition to abortion is rising again. Gee, I wonder why?

“Can you believe this?” wrote one on Facebook. “Knights of Columbus Belleville  (all men) organized this absolutely shameful act ….and also posted it on their facebook page.” Erecting a the memorial is shameful. Got it.

Well, they were just warts and parasites, so she has a point.

The National Post reported that the coordinator of a protest over the memorial stone, Elissa Robertson, accused the Catholic charity of “attacking a women’s right to choose,” saying,

“It was designed to shame people. I think it was absolutely uncalled for and that money they put into this anti-abortion monument could have done a lot of good somewhere else. It ties into patriarchal values and this idea that women’s bodies are meant to be controlled by men. It’s a broader issue that ties into violence against women, it ties into health care, it ties into safety.”

It ties into climate change! It ties into racism! It ties into tooth decay!

If one has no regrets or shame about snuffing out nascent human lives, then how does the monument shame you? The abortion argument is very difficult to win on a factual or ethical basis, but advocates have learned that “How dare you!” and “Shut up!” are very effective.

Actress Jameela Jamil certainly isn’t ashamed. She’s refreshingly honest…and scary. In a November Harper’s Bazaar interview with Gloria Steinem, she said,

“I’m very outspoken about the fact that I, similarly to you, feel very passionately about a woman’s right to choose I’m someone who’s had an abortion, and I feel like I need to make sure that we prove it’s not always just emergencies. People have abortions, sometimes a woman just wants her liberty, and we have to normalize that it’s okay just to make that choice for yourself, because your life is as important as a newborn life that doesn’t even exist yet.”

Wait, if it’s not living, then why do you have to kill it? Is it really a fair  to compare your avoiding an inconvenient responsibility or life disruption with another human being losing its life? Challenged on this, the actress responded on social media, “I SAID WHAT I FUCKING SAID and you’re clueless if you think I’m going to take it back. My life is more important to me than an unborn fetus’s one. Suck on THAT!”

Wait: I thought you said no life was involved.

This is the approximate level of thought, sensitivity and ethical analysis we hear from almost all pro-abortion activists. Basic competence and responsibility rules: if you can’t discuss a topic more articulately and thoughtfully than this, leave the issue to others. Here’s another one of Jamil’s clever arguments:

Or better yet, why not just kill them too? Continue reading

Thoughts Upon Reading The Comments To The Recent “Conscience Clause” Post

The comments on the recent post regarding the so-called conscience rule being voided in court generated the comments the topic always does. What follows is a relatively short, general post to frame the issues as clearly as possible.  Admittedly, when a post is titled “When Law and Ethics Converge,” perhaps I shouldn’t have to explicate with a post focusing on the difference between law and ethics. I strongly believe that conscience clauses undermine the law, and are unethical, as you will see.

Law and Ethics are not the buddies people think they are, or wish they were. If you look around Ethics Alarms, you see why. Ethics, as the  process by which we decide and learn what is good and right conduct, evolves with time and experience. A predictable cut of a society’s ethics are always going to be a matter of intense debate. Ethics are self-enforcing, for the most part and by nature, because being ethical should make us feel good.  Once an authority or power starts demanding conduct and enforcing  conformity, we are mostly out of the realm of ethics and into morality, where conduct is dictated by a central overseer that, if it is to have genuine authority, must be voluntarily accepted by those subject to its power.

Society cannot function on ethics alone. Without laws, chaos and anarchy result. Because chaos and anarchy are bad for everyone, no individual who has accepted the social compact may decide which laws he or she will follow and which he or she will defy—at least, not without paying a price, which is society’s punishment. In ethical terms, this is a utilitarian calculation: we accept laws that individually we may find repugnant, because allowing citizens to pick and choose which laws they will obey as a matter of “conscience” doesn’t work and has never worked. Ethics pays attention to history.

Thus it is ethical to obey the law, and unethical not to,  even if good arguments can be made that particular laws are themselves unethical. This is where civil disobedience comes in: if a citizen chooses to violate a law on a the basis of that citizen’s conscience or principle, the citizen also has to accept the legal consequences of doing so as an obligation of citizenship. Continue reading

When Law And Ethics Converge: Goodbye To The Trump Administration’s Unconstitutional and Unethical “Conscience Clause”

Today’s decision by U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer, voiding the Trump administration’s “conscience rule” that resuscitated the Bush Administration’s similar rule, is right on the law, and, more important for this blog, right on ethics. The Trump version, which was yet to go into effect,  allowed health-care providers to refuse to participate in abortions, sterilizations or other types of care they if they disagreed with them on religious or moral grounds.

It was an invitation to open-ended discrimination, and as objectionable in principle as allowing public accommodations to refuse to serve Jews, blacks or gays. This topic has been thoroughly explored on Ethics Alarms over the years, and I don’t have anything much new to say. In fact, perusing my various essays on the topic, my favorite is one that is so old, it was on the Ethics Alarms predecessor the Ethics Scoreboard (on which I am slowly making progress in my efforts to get it back online) and mentions Paris Hilton, working at Blockbuster, and an earlier incarnation of Colin Kaepernick in the NBA.

I wrote, in 2005, Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Fallback, 11/3/2019: Poisoning Children For Their Own Good, And Other Alarming Developments

Whatever time it is…

1. Not exactly a shock, but we now know Ruth Bader Ginsburg lied in her 1993 Senate confirmation hearings. At a Georgetown Law Center event last week featuring both Clintons and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton told the audience that he queried the Justice-to- be about Roe v. Wade before nominating her to the Supreme Court in 1993:

[Ginsburg] knew this perfectly well, that I was under a lot of pressure to make sure I appointed someone who was simon-pure, which I had said I thought was important. But I was fascinated by a—either an article I had read or something I had read on Justice Ginsburg saying that she supported the result in Roe v. Wade but thought Justice Blackmun should have decided the case on the equal protection clause not the right to privacy. And I asked her the question and she talked about it just as if it was any other issue, no affect: “This is what I think, this is why I think it,” and she made a heck of a case.

That’s odd, because one of the written questions she responded to in the process was…

Has anyone involved in the process of selecting you as a judicial nominee (including but not limited to a member of the White House staff, the Justice Department, or the Senate or its staff) discussed with you any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning your position on such case, issue, or question? If so, please explain fully.

And the now-revered Ginsburg replied,

It is inappropriate, in my judgment, to seek from any nominee for judicial office assurance on how that individual would rule in a future case. That judgment was shared by those involved in the process of selecting me. No such person discussed with me any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning my position on such case, issue, or question.

Yet the former President directly contradicted this, in Justice Ginsberg’s presence.

2. Further lives unborn ethics notes: Continue reading