Tag Archives: regulations

Ethics Alarms Encore: “The Inconvenient Truth About The Second Amendment and Freedom: The Deaths Are Worth It”

[ I wrote this piece in 2012, in response to the reaction at the time from the Second Amendment-hating Left to the shocking murder-suicide of of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher. Jason Whitlock, then a thoughtful sports columnist iin KC, wrote a much linked and publicized column calling for private ownership of guns to be banned. I was going to update my post, but decided to just put it up again. Some of it is obviously dated (the reference to juvenile Carl in “The Walking Dead,” for example), but I have re-read it, and would not change a word of its substance.]

The shocking murder-suicide of of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher has once again unleashed the predictable rants against America’s “culture of guns” and renewed calls for tougher firearms laws. Yes, reasonable restrictions on firearms sales make sense, and the ready availability of guns to the unhinged, criminal and crazy in so many communities is indefensible. Nevertheless, the cries for the banning of hand-guns that follow these periodic and inevitable tragedies are essentially attacks on core national values, and they need to be recognized as such, because the day America decides that its citizens should not have access to guns will also be the day that its core liberties will be in serious peril.

Here is Kansas City sportswriter Jason Whitlock, in the wake of Belcher’s demise:

“Our current gun culture ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it… If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

I don’t disagree with a single word of this. Yet everything Whitlock writes about guns can be also said about individual freedom itself. The importance of the U.S. “gun culture” is that it is really individual freedom culture, the conviction, rooted in the nation’s founding, traditions, history and values, that each citizen can and should have the freedom, ability and power to protect himself and his family, to solve his or her problems, and to determine his or her fate, without requiring the permission, leave or assistance of the government. Guns are among the most powerful symbols of that freedom. You can object to it, fight it or hate it, but you cannot deny it. Guns are symbols of individual initiative, self-sufficiency and independence, and a culture that values those things will also value guns, and access to guns.

Whitlock’s statement argues for building a counter-America in which safety, security and risk aversion is valued more than individual freedom. There is no doubt in my mind, and the results of the last election confirm this, that public support for such a counter-America is growing. The government, this segment believes, should be the resource for safety, health, financial well-being, food and shelter. It follows that the government alone should have access to firearms. This requires that we have great trust in central government, a trust that the Founders of the nation clearly did not have, but one that a lot of Americans seem ready to embrace. Giving up the right to own guns and entrusting government, through the police and the military, with the sole power to carry firearms represents a symbolic, core abandonment of the nation’s traditional commitment to personal liberty as more essential than security and safety. I would like to see the advocates of banning firearms admit this, to themselves as well as gun advocates, so the debate over firearms can be transparent and honest. Maybe, as a culture, we are now willing to make that choice. If so, we should make it with our eyes open. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘Comment Of The Day: No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not Discrimination.’”

I agree, this is getting ridiculous: our colloquy on the ethical and policy complexities of health care policy has created the first Ethics Alarms Comment of the Day on a Comment of the Day on a Comment of the Day. Nonetheless, John Billingsley’s COTD is deserving, as well as interesting and informative. Here it is, his comment on Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not Discrimination’”—which in this case you really should read Charlie Green’s post that prompted it.

I have a few comments on specific points.

“New diseases like RLS”

RLS was first described in 1685 and the first detailed clinical description was in 1944 and it was shown in test recordings in 1962. Not really a new disease but a newly publicized disease. Once a medication was developed that was effective at relieving the symptoms, it became profitable for a pharmaceutical company to target it and raise awareness. The company was not being altruistic, but is it wrong to make money by informing someone that there is a way to relieve the distress they are experiencing? If you have ever talked to someone who really has this disorder, you know how much it disrupts their lives. Is it over diagnosed? Possibly, but polysomnography to make a firm diagnosis is expensive and it is a condition where the clinical symptoms are pretty reliable. Probably cheaper to just treat it.

“Because who’s still going to argue with your doc? Especially when he or she gets side benefits from giving in to the latest DTC ads on network news programs?”

I hate DTC ads. I would be good with a spot that just said, do you experience these symptoms (of RLS perhaps)? If you do, tell your doctor. I actually spent quite a bit of time telling patients why they did not need the newest, expensive drug they heard about on TV or in a magazine either because they didn’t meet the criteria for it or because I felt that the cheaper alternatives were just as effective and needed to be tried first. It was a hard sell, particularly when the patient would say, “but my insurance will cover it.” I, and I think most doctors, take being a good steward of the healthcare dollar seriously. In the past there were sometimes substantial “side benefits” from drug companies especially if you used really expensive things like artificial joints or pacemakers. The most I ever received was dinner in a restaurant and things like cheap pens and sticky note pads. These days there are no more cheap ballpoint pens and meals typically are take out from Newks or equivalent in the office during a presentation. Not something I am likely to sell my soul for although I understand the implications. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not Discrimination.’”

The health care/ACA/AHCA commentary from readers continues to be uniformly excellent. (It was originally spurred by the post, No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not “Discrimination.”Spartan’s Comment of the Day on the topic has itself sparked its own Comment Of The Day, this one authored by Charles Green.

By fortune’s smiles, I was able to finally meet Charlie last week face to face, as he kindly alerted me that he would be passing through my neighborhood. Finally having personal contact with an Ethics Alarms reader is always a revealing and enjoyable experience, and this time especially so. I think you would all enjoy Charlie; I certainly did. Maybe I need to hold an Ethics Alarms convention.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not ‘Discrimination’.”

…The claim that “a free market system” and “freedom of choice” is the solution to all that ails us is a mindless mantra that is only occasionally true, but not always.

It’s important to be clear about when free market solutions are good, and when they are not. It’s not all that hard to sort out. Basically:

Free market solutions ought to be the presumptive default. Unless there is good reason to the contrary, they ought to be the rule.

1. Exception Number 1: Natural monopolies. It makes no sense to have competition for municipal water supplies; airports; multiple-gauge railroads; fishing grounds; groundwater; or police departments. The basic reason is the putative economic benefit is either simply not there, or is absurdly overwhelmed by the social confusion engendered by multiple suppliers.
In these cases, a form of regulated monopoly is desirable. (By the way, the airline industry at a national level is precisely this kind of market; we do not have too little competition there, but too little regulation).

2. Exception Number 2a: Wallet-driven market power monopolies. It’s strategy 101 in business schools that the way to be successful is to be #1 or #2, and the best way to do that is to get more market share than your competition, so you can drive them out of business. The one guaranteed way to do that is to cut prices so low that no one else can compete. Think Walmart. Think Amazon. Think Japanese in the 60s and 70s in any industry.
The reason we have anti-monopoly laws is to reset the playing field when a competitor dominates the market too strongly.

3. Exception Number 2b: Product-driven market power monopolies. Where the product is so obscure, expensive, infinitely variable, and difficult to understand that the producers are de facto in control, because it is too confusing and too dangerous to challenge them.
Drug prescriptions are an interesting example. The ‘free market solution’ to high drug prices was (partly) to let drug companies advertise, and to loosen up the definition of what constituted a ‘new’ drug. What did we get? New diseases like RLS, new definitions of ‘new’ (moving ‘off label’ to ‘on label’) and even higher drug company profits. Because who’s still going to argue with your doc? Especially when he or she gets side benefits from giving in to the latest DTC ads on network news programs?

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Finance, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Research and Scholarship

A New Rationalization For A Slow Sunday: #57A The Utilitarian Cheat, or “If It Saves Just One Life”

On another thread, a reader attacked the Rationalization List <GASP!>,, the beating heart of Ethics Alarms, arguing that many of what are labelled rationalizations are valid justifications and cited as such on this very site. A vile canard! Of course many rationalizations can also be valid arguments for or against conduct. Take #59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.” We do the right things because they are right, but we also have calculated why they are right, which means dealing with and rebutting the counter-arguments that might suggest those decisions are not right.  However, #59 addresses the frequent use of the “It’s the right thing to do” as a argument-ender, employing it as evidence when it really has to be a conclusion based on other evidence and analysis.

The latest addition to the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List does not have this problem. It is almost always a cheap rhetorical device, slyly edging what needs to be a clear-eyed, rational analysis of proposed conduct into the confounding realm of emotion. #57 A, The Utilitarian Cheat or “If its saves just one life” is a sub-rationalization under #57, 57. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!”  (It could easily be the other way around.)

#57 A. The Utilitarian Cheat or “If it saves just one life”

Invoking Rationalization #57A is as good a test as there is for identifying an untrustworthy demagogue. The claim that something is worth enacting, eliminating, establishing or doing is ethically and morally validates “if it saves juts one life” is aimed directly at the mushy minds of sentimentalists  and the dangerously compassionate. If the argument is made in good faith, the speaker is an incompetent dolt; usually it is the desperate last resort of a someone who has found that their real arguments are inadequate or unpersuasive.

The insidious trick inherent in the device is that we agree that human life is precious, and that we can not and will not place a dollar sign on a human being. The next step, however, in which a single life, or even many, is deemed justification for any expense or other draconian societal trade-offs, is impractical and irrational. It would save many lives if automobiles were built like tanks and could never exceed five miles an hour. Locking up ever angry husband that threatened the life of an estranged spouse with a menacing phone call would save many lives. So would forcing women to carry their babies to term, eliminating the right to have an abortion. Torture used without restrictions probably would save one life or more. Prohibition was sold using #57A.

All of these policy conundrums and many others are too complex by far to use simple-minded absolutism as their ethical guideline, and about 30 seconds of logical clarity will usually make that clear.  Those who employ The Utilitarian Cheat, however, don’t want clarity. It is an appeal to embrace acts that can do wide-ranging harm to society, civilization, human aspirations and liberty, because un-named lives can be saved. Though it is opposite of the exploitation of human life for other goals that Kantian ethics forbids, it is equally invalid.

___________________________

Graphic: gunssavelives.net

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Filed under Government & Politics, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick On The Internet Privacy Bill

“We don’t solve problems by misrepresenting what the real scenario is. It’s true that ISPs have way too much power over these markets, and they can see and collect a ton of information on you which can absolutely be misused in privacy-damaging ways. But let’s at least be honest about how it’s happening and what it means. That’s the only way we’re going to see real solutions to these issues.”

Mike Masnick on Techdirt on the ignorance of  supporters, critics, and the public regarding consumer broadband privacy protections, which were just repealed by straight party line votes in Congress, as part of the Congressional Review Act, which allows the legislative branch to eliminate regulations and limits an agency’s ability to issue similar rules to the ones being struck down. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.

I can see both sides of the Internet “privacy” debate. All I ask is that the average screaming head on TV knows what she’s talking about, and that the news media try to educate citizens on the issue, not portray it as another Obama did it so it’s wonderful, Trump is overturning it, so it’s the end of the world. This morning I watched Morning News Babe Robin Meade roll her eyes while “describing’ what the bill does completely inaccurately. The bill, her unhappy face broadcast is baaaad like everything the Trump Administration and Republicans do is baaaaad. Then she explained that the bill would allow internet service providers, browsers and “search engines” to take your internet history and sell it to big corporations.  Then she giggled about how Max Temkin, inventor of some card game* I have never heard of, promised in a tweet…

“If this shit passes I will buy the browser history of every congressman and congressional aide and publish it.”

Robin, not having the foggiest idea what the bill really did, thought this was so funny and cool. She did not inform her audience, some of whom were actually seeking reliable information and not just tuning in to ogle, that..

  • The bill only undoes the Obama FCC regulations that stopped ISPs from gathering data on its customers’ internet use, and they hadn’t taken effect yet. In other words, it changes nothing.
  • Google, Amazon, Facebook, and other browsers and internet services still can gather anything they get their grubby cyber paws on. The FCC doesn’t regulate them.

You can’t buy Congress’ internet data. You can’t buy my internet data. You can’t buy your internet data. That’s not how this works. It’s a common misconception. We even saw this in Congress four years ago, where Rep. Louis Gohmert went on a smug but totally ignorant rant, asking why Google won’t sell the government all the data it has on people. As we explained at the time, that’s not how it works*. Advertisers aren’t buying your browsing data, and ISPs and other internet companies aren’t selling your data in a neat little package. It doesn’t help anyone to blatantly misrepresent what’s going on.

When ISPs or online services have your data and “sell” it, it doesn’t mean that you can go to, say, AT&T and offer to buy “all of Louis Gohmert’s browsing history.” Instead, what happens is that these companies collect that data for themselves and then sell targeting. That is, when Gohmert goes to visit his favorite publication, that website will cast out to various marketplaces for bids on what ads to show. Thanks to information tracking, it may throw up some demographic and interest data to the marketplace. So, it may say that it has a page being viewed by a male from Texas, who was recently visiting webpages about boardgames and cow farming (to randomly choose some items). Then, from that marketplace, some advertisers’ computerized algorithms will more or less say “well, I’m selling boardgames about cows in Texas, and therefore, this person’s attention is worth 1/10th of a penny more to me than some other company that’s selling boardgames about moose.” And then the webpage will display the ad about cow boardgames. All this happens in a split second, before the page has fully loaded.

At no point does the ad exchange or any of the advertisers know that this is “Louis Gohmert, Congressional Rep.” Nor do they get any other info. They just know that if they are willing to spend the required amount to get the ad shown via the marketplace bidding mechanism, it will show up in front of someone who is somewhat more likely to be interested in the content.

That’s it.

Got that, Robin?

Probably not. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Science & Technology, The Internet

Orwellian Thought Manipulation As An Ideological Tactic: A Case Study

orwell-quote

Cognitive linguist  George Lakoff, a far left academic (but I repeat myself),  advises his partisan political brethren to build public opposition to the President’s regulation reform efforts by changing the word that we use to describe regulations:

President Trump has said that he intends to get rid of 75% of government regulations. What is a “regulation”?

The term “regulation” is framed from the viewpoint of corporations and other businesses. From their viewpoint, “regulations” are limitations on their freedom to do whatever they want no matter who it harms. But from the public’s viewpoint, a regulation is a protection against harm done by unscrupulous corporations seeking to maximize profit at the cost of harm to the public.

Imagine our minority President saying out loud that he intends to get rid of 75% of public protections. Imagine the press reporting that. Imagine the NY Times, or even the USA Today headline: Trump to Eliminate 75% of Public Protections. Imagine the media listing, day after day, the protections to be eliminated and the harms to be faced by the public.

Lakoff’s tactic is remarkable in its transparency. Increasingly, the Left has relied on misleading the public by injecting euphemisms and what I call “cover phrases” into policy debates and news reports to obscure the undesirable aspects of a favored measure, including its unethical nature, such as restricting  individual rights. Thus abortion, which involves trade-offs between two human lives and sets of rights, is referred to as “choice,” eliminating the life-taking aspect of the problem from the discussion entirely. Thanks to the efforts of Democrats with the cooperation of the communications media, race-based admission to educational institutions and hiring that may discriminate against whites and Asian-Americans are covered by the benign-sounding term, “affirmative action.” The most brazen of these linguistic cheats is the widespread practice of referring to illegal immigrants as immigrants, thus allowing advocates of unrestrained lawbreaking by uninvited aliens to tar good faith opponents  of open border and amnesty policies as xenophobes and racists.

Lakoff continues his cynical instruction  for aspiring Big Brothers: Continue reading

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When You Consider The Wisdom Of Obama’s Campaign To Destigmatize Felons, Please Also Consider Felicia Menge Kelley

Portrait of a justice-involved individual...

Portrait of a justice-involved individual…

As it attempts to bolster its political support by sucking up to convicted criminals and their families, the Obama administration has been incrementally making it more difficult to distinguish felons from law-abiding citizens, arguing that once they have paid their debt to society, maybe they are no different. HUD, carrying out the Obama administration’s new theory that felons are just plain folks,  has decreed that landlords risk federal investigations if they reject rental applicants based on the applicant’s undisputed criminal record in newly-released guidelines. 

The Justice Department and the Department of Education are now using a euphemism to make convicts and those with rap sheets sound like they have a hobby: the new cover-phrase is “justice-involved individuals.” (Hillary Clinton is apparently a justice-involved individual.)

The problem with all of this is that being convicted of a felony is not like catching a cold, and often provides a strong clue that the individual involved is not quite as trustworthy as the boy scout or girl scout next door. Take, for example, this story:

From the ABA Journal:

A woman with a history of financial crimes in multiple states got a job as an office manager and bookkeeper for a North Carolina law firm, after a background check failed to pick up her earlier convictions under a different name.

That resulted in a loss of more than $150,000 to the firm, Yow, Fox & Mannen, District Attorney Ben David of New Hanover County told the Port City Daily. The firm’s now-former employee, Felicia Menge Kelley, 44, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of embezzlement and was sentenced to a prison term of between 82 and 111 months, the newspaper reports. She will also be required to pay over $145,000 in restitution.

Kelley, who has previously worked for other law firms in the Jacksonville area, was convicted earlier under the name of Felicia Dawn Menge…

But I’m sure she’s just an exception to the rule…and gives a bad name to decent, hard-working, justice-involved individuals. It’s not like they are criminals or something.

 

 

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Workplace