Ethics Alarms To NYT Columnist Ross Douthat: “Exactly!” (Corrected)

Abortion monument

I’m still working on the Ethics Alarms prescription for an ethical national policy regarding abortion. The briefs and oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case now before the U.S. Supreme Court are useful, but I received a special assist this morning from Times columnist Ross Douthat, who presented a full page, marvelously thorough and ethically spot-on analysis of the issue in an essay titled, “The Case Against Abortion.”

I wish I had written it, but I am grateful that he did. He deserves to have it read thoroughly by all, but some especially apt sections shout out for special mention:

  • “At the core of our legal system, you will find a promise that human beings should be protected from lethal violence. That promise is made in different ways by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence; it’s there in English common law, the Ten Commandments and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We dispute how the promise should be enforced, what penalties should be involved if it is broken and what crimes might deprive someone of the right to life. But the existence of the basic right, and a fundamental duty not to kill, is pretty close to bedrock.

    “There is no way to seriously deny that abortion is a form of killing.”

    And that must be the starting point for any policy debate.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 9, 2018: Experiment Results, Flowering Trees From Hell, And Ominous Signs From The Left..

Good morning…

…Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…

1. Apologies for a lost Sunday. I was never able to get back to my computer yesterday. The combination of my responsibilities to the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society as it celebrated its 46th year of operation against daunting odds, some pressing client matters and important family matters just overwhelmed my schedule, plus I was wiped out by the early evening. Of course, based on the blog’s traffic this month and the continuing ethics rot, I console my self in the message of the most famous song from “Ruddigore,” GG&SS’s student production for the anniversary…especially the final line…

“This particularly rapid unintelligible patter isn’t generally heard, and if it is, it doesn’t matter.”

Ethics commentary in a nutshell.

2. However: The regulars came through in a pinch. The free swim produced at least four  Comment of the Day quality posts, including a history of the Gettysburg address. Thanks everybody. The experiment was a ringing success, and I will have more open forums in the future.

3.  This kind of thing is why I have a hard time taking environmentalist doom-saying seriously. We planted Bradford Pear trees, which are now blooming beautifully as is their wont, in front of our house almost 20 years ago. They have their downsides, to be sure, and you have to trim them back or they are likely to split or fall over. However, here is an environmentalist claiming that they are trees from hell, and who writes in part: Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Charles W. Cooke

“You’re going to need a plan. A state-by-state, county-by-county, street-by-street, door-to door plan. A detailed roadmap to abolition that involves the military and the police and a whole host of informants — and, probably, a hell of a lot of blood, too. Sure, the ACLU won’t like it, especially when you start going around poorer neighborhoods. Sure, there are probably between 20 and 30 million Americans who would rather fight a civil war than let you into their houses. Sure, there is no historical precedent in America for the mass confiscation of a commonly owned item — let alone one that was until recently constitutionally protected. Sure, it’s slightly odd that you think that we can’t deport 11 million people but we can search 123 million homes. But that’s just the price we have to pay. Times have changed.”

—-Charles W. Cooke in a National Review self-described rant in 2015, ” …Aimed at Those Who Would Repeal the Second Amendment”

I missed Cooke’s piece in 2015, but it should be required reading today. Today was “Kill the Second Amendment Day” on social media and among the talking heads on Sunday Morning TV shows, in part because the obligatory coordinated freak-out over any tragic shooting always hits a brick wall of reality that disingenuous talk of “sensible gun reforms” won’t remove, and because for the second time in barely a week, , a New York Times op-ed regular advocated taking a big chunk out of the Bill of Rights. Once again, it was another Times house conservative, Bret Stephens, making the very un-conservative case for abridging individual rights. Earlier it was Ross Douthat wanting to hamstring freedom of speech in order to make “better men.” Stephens wants to repeal the Second Amendment.

I received fair criticism for attributing Douthat’s column to the leftist agenda of the Times, but Stephens’ piece reinforces my theory. For quite a while it has been clear that the Left views the Constitution as an impediment to it ascendance to transformational power the U.S. This has been on display from many angles, on many fronts, and with increasing intensity.  Progressives tried to get around the Electoral College to elect Hillary, and attacked that Constitutional device for months. They still regard the Due Process clause as an annoyance and an obstacle to blocking untrustworthy citizens from acquiring guns. During the battle over Obamacare, multiple leaders of the Democratic Party mocked the idea that the Commerce Clause imposed any limits at all on Congressional power, hence its ability, in their eyes, to “pass a law forcing citizens to buy broccoli.” (SCOTUS ruled otherwise, but the individual mandate was rescued by a creative Chief Justice.)

Hillary Clinton proposed excepting political speech in the form of purchased public advocacy for political candidates from the First Amendment. The grass roots Left, along with members of the media and leaders of the Democratic Party like Howard Dean, have not only denied that so-called “hate speech” is protected, but have acted as if it isn’t, and demanded that it shouldn’t be.  Majority Democratic states and cities are actively defying federalism in their efforts to prevent the enforcement of immigration laws. Since President Trump’s election, many Democrats in Congress and elsewhere that Constitutional requirements for impeachment should yield to simple numbers: If a party has enough votes, it should be able to remove a President, or at least this one.

I think it’s clever for the Times to use its nominal conservative writers to advance the progressive cause of selectively gutting the cornerstone of everything the United States of America has achieved in two and a half centuries. I also think that is what it has done here.

But I digress. Continue reading

The Reason We Can’t Trust Progressives With Power: They Really Don’t Like Free Speech [CORRECTED!]

It’s not just “hate speech,” and speech questioning climate change, and conservative speakers on campus, and professors using offensive words to discuss how we should treat offensive words, and political speech by citizens banding together to support candidates and express issue positions. and employees making jokes that others choose to find offensive.  Increasingly prominent progressive elected officials, activists, scholars and pundits are advocating the elimination of free expression in realms that have been long protected by the Supreme Court, and that are currently protected as First Amendment speech by the Constitution.

Witness New York Times  columnist Ros Douthat’s recent op-ed flippantly titled, “Let’s Ban Porn.”  Buried in the essay’s Authentic Frontier Gibbberish designed, I assume, to numb the ethics alarms is a call for content-based government censorship, meaning that communicating “porn”–which the Supreme Court never got closer to defining than Justice Potter Stewart’s  famous and pathetic “I know it when I see it”—would be a crime.

How can a journalist, of all people and professions—excuse me,professions—advocate doing what the Bill of Rights specifically prohibits? By stooping to an argument like this one..

“But we are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that serve misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, most young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut….The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition. Law and jurisprudence changed once and can change again, and while you can find anything somewhere on the internet, making hard-core porn something to be quested after in dark corners would dramatically reduce its pedagogical role, its cultural normalcy, its power over libidos everywhere. That we cannot imagine such censorship is part of our larger inability to imagine any escape from the online world’s immersive power, even as we harbor growing doubts about its influence upon our psyches.”

No, Ross, the reason that we can’t imagine such censorship is because the United States of American is predicated on the core principle, among others, that the government restricting what can be imagined, said, expressed, written and published is far, far more dangerous that any content that can be imagined,  said, expressed, written and published, and thus the remedy for controversial, ugly or otherwise controversial speech is more speech, not laws. What Douthat’s op-ed translates as, and heaven knows it needs a translation though there is no “Leftist Virtue-Signalling Bloviation” to English handbook that I can find on Amazon, is that porn is bad for people, though apparently only men, because the Left’s official position of the moment is that Men Are The Problem.”  For example,  douhat writes,

“So if you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle — and to suspect that between virtual reality and creepy forms of customization, its influence is only likely to get worse.”

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