Ethics & Morality Archives

H1N1, Vaccinations (and Abortion)

H1N1 vaccinations are a subject for debate. One might ask, will they be required of students? Or of other organizations. “H1N1 required” pulls up a list of links. If I was more playfully disposed, I think this might be an interesting venue to push the argument in a real legal challenge by refusing to disclose vaccination (or not) of myself or (more likely) my children. Vaccinations of a variety of sorts are required for school attendance. Where and why the challenge? Because the abortion “right to privacy” is exactly the same right that is not protected by the school system (and thereby the government’s) right to demand vaccination.

Now normally I get a flu shot and will likely get the H1N1 and the seasonal flu shot this year … and so will my kids. But that in itself is irrelevant to a challenge. Typically with vaccination requirements the parent is required to prove vaccination with a doctors affidavit. This is the part I would refuse. If abortion is legal, it should not be legal for the government to require vaccination. The argument is the same. Abortion is therefore legal because a woman has a right to the disposition of  her body. Vaccination is programming of our immune system and clearly part of your body. Requirement of vaccination therefore is just in this case the state violating that right that abortion establishes.

In prior discussions on this point, the argument was put forth against it, that abortion and vaccinations differ in that getting a vaccination is for the public good and is not very harmful to the recipient. I’m not sure what bearing that has on the argument, but one might point out that children too are required for the next generation and are in general public good.

Howzzat Supposed to Work Anyhow?

Regular commenter JA offers today the following observation:

However, I would (and do) distinguish between tribalism for minority “tribes” and tribalism for the majority in the most powerful nation on Earth. Black pride, Jewish pride, Mormon pride, Catholic pride — these, while (and this is where I probably disagree with Sharansky) still falling short of the ideal of universalism, can be useful for societies which contain them. It’s when the primary group of a powerful society shows too much tribalism that it becomes dangerous. But, again, I think universalism is ultimately best.

A few remarks might follow from this. (I might note that these remarks stem from the book Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy, by Nathan Sharansky) Read the rest of this entry

Thinking About Work

Industry vs Craft. Assembly vs Construction. Utility vs Excellence.

Two of the competing desires we have in the products we obtain and for that matter produce. We want things, in general, to be inexpensive and affordable. But we also want them finely crafted. Engineers have a saying, “good, fast, cheap … pick two.” Consumer products likely have a similar pithy phrase, but it doesn’t come to mind right now.  The point is intelligent consumers are driven between two competing desires. You want your purchases to be cheap. And you likely would prefer finely crafted items made by artisans, i.e., the highest quality. Yet the first implies automation, assembly lines, and mass production. That is how costs come down. The second requires skill, care, and a lot of human time and talent. In the days prior to mechanization and the industrial revolution, only the rich and powerful (and sometimes the artisans themselves) had access to these quality products. The reason for that was fairly simple, not everyone could have these things … and therefore only the few did. And like always, the rich/powerful get the good toys. There was no, and could be no way for a “better” power structure to make available fine goods made by craftsman to surround your life and leisure for everyone. With automation, the tide rises. While we can’t all get the hand crafted “things”, there is a continuum between mass produced and artisan quality products and basically all have access to an equivalent product in almost every regime today as the rich/powerful have available (pretty much everyone but the bottom billion … which are held in poverty not by goods not being “enough” to go around, but by other factors). Now today one natural place this line of thinking takes on is to consider these ideas in relation to healthcare. But there are other ways in which this could be examined.

Some far future speculative works, such as Star Trek, imagine a future in which the quality of mass/machine produced products are indistinguishable from an artisan’s work. These works of fiction often figure that work per se will fade in importance some what. Political, military, exploration, art and other venues open themselves up for human occupation. Work however isn’t useful primarily for its ends but the process, although most fruitful work has a end (a product) which is useful. Work provides:

  1. An end product, that is the direct result from the work you do. People extract satisfaction from that in a measure related to their estimation of the value of the product of their work (and the difficulty by which it was accomplished).
  2. A means by which our the web of dependency can be sustained. Alasdair MacIntyre entitled a book describing the human condition (and why we need the virtues) Dependent Rational Animals.
  3. In the process of work, we live and interact in a complex social network. The work process with extremely few exceptions is a social one. Every job brings us in to contact in meaningful ways with co-workers, bosses, people under us, vendors, customers and so on. 
  4. In any particular job, even those called “unskilled”, expertise is built up. We become skilled at that particular task through refinement and repetition. 
  5. With expertise, often comes pure enjoyment and satisfaction of doing a thing well, or even doing a thing which few can do.

Only the first of these is the “end” of labor. Depending on the individual each of these elements is felt more or less important. But all of these are present for each person in their labor.

On Gauging Morality

Harvey Weinstein, who started a pro-Roman-Polanski petition which is making the rounds among Hollywood’s filmmakers, called Polanski’s rape of a 13-year-old a "so-called crime"Then he had the audacity to say:

"Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion," Weinstein said. "We were the people who did the fundraising telethon for the victims of 9/11. We were there for the victims of Katrina and any world catastrophe."

Thus, a peek inside the secular liberal mind; if you do the right things, all else is forgiven.  And I mean all

Talk about earning your salvation!

On being Human: it’s in the eye of the beholder

My friends at Stand to Reason, a Christian apologetics organization, like to use the catchphrase, “Truth is not ice cream.” It’s their way of sparking people’s thought processes about relativism within our culture. Essentially, they’re illustrating the difference subjective and objective truth. While we can have various subjective opinions about our best flavor of ice cream, such opinions have no bearing on the veracity of the objective truth about the healing properties of medicine.

But what about the state of being human? Does yours or my status, as that of being a living human being, rest on the subjective whim of other human beings?

In the late 1990s I was selected for jury duty and questioned regarding a murder case. The defendant was accused of battery against a woman – a pregnant woman. She survived, but her unborn child died. Thus, the murder case was regarding the death of her unborn child. During the juror interview process I expressed astonishment that we have laws that allow for an unborn child to be killed through abortion, yet also have laws which allow for the prosecution of those that kill an unborn child. It seems to me that such a combination of laws presents us with a logical contradiction, namely, that an unborn child is, at the same time, both a human being and not a human being. In such an ice cream world of thought, we end up seeing that whether or not someone is considered to have been murdered depends entirely on whether or not said someone is considered to be a human being.

So… who’s in charge of determining the humanity of the unborn?

The quandary of this contradiction, and its implications, can be seen in a couple of posts at the New Mexico Independent (see here and here). One may also want to refer to a list of the 36 states which have Fetal Homicide Laws.

What is truly scary to see, in the two posts referenced above, is not the inconsistency with which pro-abortion advocates apply their compassion but how, when faced with the quandary, inadvertently (it is hoped) venture into the realm of creating second class humans. From Santa Fe man accused of killing pregnant girlfriend has high-powered legal help, regarding the fetal homicide laws,

Such laws are strongly supported by anti-abortion groups and opposed by many in the pro-choice camp, who say they are part of a long-term plan to establish rights for fetuses—at the expense of rights for women—and overturn the right to an abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade.

Thus we are expected to refrain from establishing rights for the unborn in order to retain the right of women to kill their unborn? A civilized society can only accept such a proposition if, in fact, the unborn are not human.

The apologists at Stand to Reason have another saying they use, with regards to abortion, which comes to the point quite succinctly:  If the unborn child is not a human being, then no justification for abortion is necessary; and if the unborn child is a human being, then no justification for abortion is adequate.

Is this responsible; saddling future generations with mountains of debt so that we don’t have to suffer ourselves?  Is this moral?

The federal government faces exploding deficits and mounting debt over the next decade, White House officials predicted Tuesday in a fiscal assessment far bleaker than what the Obama administration had estimated just a few months ago.

Figures released by the White House budget office foresee a cumulative $9 trillion deficit from 2010-2019, $2 trillion more than the administration estimated in May. Moreover, the figures show the public debt doubling by 2019 and reaching three-quarters the size of the entire national economy.

Obama economic adviser Christina Romer predicted unemployment could reach 10 percent this year and begin a slow decline next year. Still, she said, the average unemployment will be 9.3 in 2009 and 9.8 percent in 2010.

"This recession was simply worse than the information that we and other forecasters had back in last fall and early this winter," Romer said.

Fine, the recession may have been worse than your experts predicted, but you can’t possibly escape the fact that the "exploding deficits" and "mounting debt" are directly attributable to the administrations own programs, Ms. Romer.  You didn’t inherit TARP.  "Cash for Clunkers" is not a Bush administration program.  And it’s not entirely clear whether or not all this indebtedness has been a remedy.

Our current indebtedness is making foreign investors skittish, even if we do come out of the recession fairly early.  We have to pay this money back at some point, but Obama is going to foist it off on whoever’s President after him.

If this was a private citizen doing this, Dave Ramsey would be having an intervention.  Millions of (otherwise) fiscally responsible Christians would, too, but this crisis has turn some of them on their heads.

Here’s an article from March by Tony Campolo, where he says that he is repenting from being the "older brother" in the story of the Prodigal Son by complaining how irresponsible others were with (in this case) the money taken from him in taxes.

That, I am sad to say, is much the same attitude that I, along with most of my conservative evangelical brothers and sisters, have had in reaction to President Obama’s announcement that taxpayers’ dollars, earned by hard-working, responsible citizens, would be given to help those irresponsible Americans who bought houses that they couldn’t afford, while embracing a lifestyle that was beyond their means. With resentment, I, along with most of my rugged individualistic Christian friends, now sound like that older brother in Jesus’ story, and call for those irresponsible spenders to get what they deserve. With an air of self-righteous indignation, we declare, “They didn’t do what’s right and now we’re being asked to rescue them from the financial mess they’ve created for themselves!”

The gospel is about grace and we all know that grace is about us receiving from God blessings that we don’t deserve. But now, I, having received grace, find that my voice is blending in with a host of other older brother types who are reluctant to grant grace to those desperate home-buyers who were seduced into lavish living they could ill afford.

I’ve got some repenting to do. I doubt, however, that those who have wedded Christianity with laissez-faire capitalism will see things this way. I can just hear them saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

I have no idea what conservative Christians you’ve been talking to, or perhaps imagining, Tony.  I am my brother’s keeper.  I am, not my government.  And my neighbor is not my brother’s keeper either, so forcing them via taxes to pay for my brother is wrong.  When God is separating the sheep from the goats, the Bible does not say He’ll ask me if I voted to make sure others paid to help the poor, He’ll ask if I fed the hungry, clothed the naked and visited the prisoner. 

Charity money I give directly, or through the organization of my choice, is grace.  Forcing me, with threat of incarceration, to pay for anything, no matter how well-intentioned, is most decidedly not charity or grace.  Campolo seems to suggest that God’s grace consists of always letting us keep the fruits of our foolishness and bad decisions. 

But in the story that he references, the younger son, while welcomed back into the family, does not get a windfall or a bailout.  He’s forgetting one of the last lines of the story, where the father says to the older brother, "’My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’"  Yes, the younger brother came back and, instead of being a servant, was restored to his place as a member of the family.  Yes, he had a party thrown in his honor.  But, as Jesus points out through the words of the father, he no longer is entitled to half of the inheritance anymore.  That ship has sailed.  If he did have even that restored to him — if there were no consequence for his actions — the temptation later on to repeat the same mistake would be very great. 

As in that story, rewarding poor choices is not something we should have our government in the business of doing.  The father did take the younger son back into the family, which means he gets his 3 square meals a day and other benefits, and we, with our charity dollars (as opposed to forcibly taxed dollars), should be helping out those who made poor choices, or who find themselves in circumstances not of their own making.  Absolutely true, and I’d wonder where Mr. Campolo is finding Christians saying otherwise.  Certainly not in the disagreeing comments to his post.  They’re worth reading as much as the article itself.

Part of the issue with toxic mortgages is something Campolo alludes to; the government contributed to this problem by relaxing the rules on who could qualify for a mortgage.  This action was urged by liberals likely with the same mindset as now, who thought that encouraging home ownership, regardless of the ability to pay the debt, was also gracious.  Never mind the hindsight we now have, just the idea that doing anything and everything for the poor without thought for the potential consequences is irresponsible.  What we wound up with was a program to allegedly help the poor, that encouraged irresponsibility, funded by taxpayers, which, when it foundered, was then bailed out by taxpayers.  This, I believe, is the source of the frustration that Mr. Campolo is hearing; the same mindset that helped cause the problem claims that it can now solve the problem.

So the question from a Christian perspective is not whether we are our brother’s keeper, as Mr. Campolo’s straw man insists.  That’s a cheap shot at best.  I think the question is; what is the proper role of government in dispensing grace?  Jesus didn’t speak to the Roman government, nor did he speak to the local civic leaders (though He did have some strong words for the local religious leader).  He spoke to individuals.  To those outside the church, He said to repent.  That’s it.  To those inside the church, however, He had many things to say, including how to treat the poor.  Our civil government does not speak or act for the church, so it is not the job of the government to carry out the instructions to the church.  And given that churches and church-goers are, generally, the most giving and charitable people, I don’t see a rebuke of Mr. Campolo’s type is in order; simply an admonishment to continue to do more.

(This is not to say that we shouldn’t want the government to act morally in its proper spheres.  This is a question of what those spheres should be or how extensively it should penetrate those spheres that it is in.)

I grew up in the Salvation Army, and when giving out food to the poor, there was sometimes a concern that such giveaways might be scammed.  Perhaps a father comes in and gets groceries for a family of 3, and then later the mother comes in to do the same.  Is it moral to question whether or not the food program is being properly administered to avoid this?  Is it fair to the family in need who comes to our door only to be turned away because their bag of groceries went to a family that double-dipped, or didn’t really need it?  And so, wouldn’t it valid for those who give money to the Salvation Army, in hopes of helping the needy, to be frustrated if they find that the program needs more money because it was improperly handled in the first place?  And if it’s OK for the Salvation Army, how much more so for a government dealing out billions and trillions of dollars!

Don’t we expect good stewardship?  Or if the intent is good, should we ignore all the problems with a program and instead force our neighbors and future generations to pay for it?  How in the world is that moral or responsible or, if you will, sustainable?

Healthcare Reform Hypocrisy On End Of Life

Ever since former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made her “death panel” remarks on Facebook, President Obama has repeated as often as he can that the government in the proposed health care reform plan would not “pull the plug on granny”.

However, there is one agency responsible for healthcare of a certain segment of the population  whose actions directly contradict the President’s rhetoric (Hat tip: The Corner):

If President Obama wants to better understand why America’s discomfort with end-of-life discussions threatens to derail his health-care reform, he might begin with his own Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He will quickly discover how government bureaucrats are greasing the slippery slope that can start with cost containment but quickly become a systematic denial of care.

Last year, bureaucrats at the VA’s National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, “Your Life, Your Choices.” It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA’s preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated “Your Life, Your Choices.”

Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.

“Your Life, Your Choices” presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political “push poll.” For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be “not worth living.”

The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to “shake the blues.” There is a section which provocatively asks, “Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘If I’m a vegetable, pull the plug’?” There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as “I can no longer contribute to my family’s well being,” “I am a severe financial burden on my family” and that the vet’s situation “causes severe emotional burden for my family.”

When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?

This just goes to show in judging where the President stands on different aspects of health care reform that it might be better to pay more attention to his actions than his words.

Where We’re Heading in the Healthcare Debate

I agree with Glenn Beck that we haven’t reached the point where eugenics is being implemented as a matter of policy. However, when you look back at history, you understand the dangers that lie ahead in the health care debate. Click on the video below to see the whole story:

Considering Children

Pseudonymous Larry Niven at Rust Belt Philosophy has a short post in which the “right to avoid life” movement arises. Chantal Delsol points that this and similar movements are consequens of the rejection of taking the as axiomatic the ontological nature of human dignity in The Unlearned Lessons Of the Twentieth Century. I should note that a person “CM” is the author of these arguments and that in my reading of Mr Niven’s piece it is unclear what his stance is on this matter.

A relatively famous document begins:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Here we find the founders noting that some truths are not ones for which a foundational argument needs to be waged, they are self-evident. That the continuance of the human species is both good and a salutatory (if not to say necessary) attitude for humans to take seems to be another such self-evident statement. If you are a shark or a mosquito one must necessarily as such argue that continued existence of the shark and the mosquito is also good.

Mr Niven for CM offers two arguments against human reproduction, a harm based and a rights based argument. The harm based argument is easily countered. He offers that:

Choosing to reproduce, CM says, is tantamount to “imposing a lifetime’s worth of negative experiences on someone else.” And while one might agree that “everybody has negative experiences,” everybody capable of having negative experiences also has positive experiences: are these, too, “imposed”?

The abortion rights individuals hate the counter to this argument. Merely quiz the living, “Would you have never been born?” and oddly enough nobody whom we would term sane answers in the affirmative to that question. This particular argument is not uncommonly seen in the pro-abortion rhetorical quiver. The “his/her life would be too filled with hardship” and therefore termination is required. Yet oddly enough people with hard lives rarely venture that their lot would have been better in non-existence or death, but that sort of notion only resides with those people whose life has been in the main very soft and full of ease. Furthermore virtually everyone in the pre-industrial age had, by today’s standards, a life far harder than the hard life imagined for the incipient child.

The second argument is as follows:

For CM, no person has “interests prior to existing. Hence, biological children are always used as means to an end,” which, together with “the fact that people are brought into existence without their consent,” consists of a violation of the rights

This has two problems. One is a common rhetorical ploy found in philosophical circles the “if P then Q” where there is no logical connection between the premise and the conclusion. All things are a interest or a means to an end is not true. There are “ends”, which are neither. For a child can be see as in intrinsic good in and of itself. A child is good in an of itself, therefore creation of a new child is abstractly a good which is not a means (but an end). The second problem is in his notion of rights. CM suggests that the lack of consent implies a violation of rights. This might be OK if human beings were created ex nihilo with full faculties at creation, but that is not how it works. We have, well, these constructions known as “children” who are in developmental stages for at least a decade and a half. Consent is not a right children possess naturally because they are not equipped to handle those responsibilities at that time.

Obamacare and The End of Life

Buried deep within the 1000+ page healthcare bill is a confusing and vague provision that mandates “advanced care planning consultations” for Medicare recipients. What exactly is intended by these consultations is open to interpretation.

The provision originated from an earlier bill
that was designed to encourage patients to consider hospice and pallative care as they near the end of their lives. But make no mistake, this is also about money. According to one estimate, Medicare spends $100 billion a year for care of patients in their last year of life.

Many critics are rightly concerned that the government will be dictating to patients what care they can and can’t receive. The Bioethics Defense Fund is going so far to suggest that this provision is government endorsement of euthanasia.

As a matter of fact, such arguments about the cost of caring for the eldery and infirm as an endorsement for euthanasia has been tried before:

This poster appeared in Nazi Germany during the 1930’s. The message reads: “60,000 Reich Marks. This is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the Community of Germans during his lifetime. Fellow Citizen, that is your money, too.”

The arguments being made for mandatory “advanced care planning consultations” seemed to be eerily similar to the poster above. Critics of the President’s health care plan have very legitimate reasons to be worried about what this provision means. Voters should be concerned also.

Food and Sex

Yesterday Rod Dreher wrote one of his little essays on pornography and its prevalence and its harmful effects.

The typical reaction from the left (and perhaps the libertarian) is to note something like this, defending by some statistical correlation with a drop in rape correlated with an increase in porn consumption. There are a few problems with the underlying groundwork that goes along with the statistical correlation, which is undoubtedly right even while it is wrong. There are three problems with this assumption.

  1. First the problem isn’t rooted in merely private pornographic consumption or access. We live in a pornographically soaked culture today. The notion that “less access” to the Internet means less porn is not exactly salient. Those with “less” access to porn are still soaked in sexually drenched imagery on a almost continual basis. All this study tells us is that continually tantalizing a population with subtle and not-so-subtle hints of pornography but not giving ready access to the same … causes an increase in rape. Consider for example, New England to the other colonies (or the other three folkways borrowing from Hackett Fisher’s Albion’s Seed). Rape and other such crimes were down and there was less “drenching” in casual sexuality too. There are other factors besides porn if rape is you only concern.
  2. Which leads us to the second problem. Porn doesn’t come from the the foetid imagination of CGI artists. It’s production is not a victimless activity. One of the libertarian blogs I follow (a few weeks ago) noted that in towns where prostitution is legalized along with that there is a distinct rise in underground sexual slavery. Pornography production itself undoubtedly (I have no statistics dug up on this) has its own particular trafficking patterns worldwide. As well, even if rape is decreased … Mr Dreher notes: He said he worked in a counselor’s role there as well, and routinely dealt with students who were seriously messed up by their porn habits. For example, he said, he believed that many of the guys he worked with had no idea how to relate to women in a healthy way; the power of pornography, working consciously and subconsciously, caused the men to have badly distorted views of women, views that stunted and even paralyzed the men emotionally. Pornography, even if it reduces the incidence of rape, may ultimately still be more harmful from a societal standpoint than the alternative even if one does nothing to also reduce the rape (that is the prior and next points that I make here).
  3. St. John Cassian was a Christian theologian and monastic born in about 360. He was born in either modern Romania, some say France (Gaul). From there he traveled to Palestine and then spent time with the monastic communities near Sketis in the Egyptian desert. Some time later he (and a friend) returned eventually to the bringing the monastic tradition with him. St. John wrote extensively, somewhere I read his writings were almost as voluminous as St. Augustine’s. In his Institutes he devotes 8 books (of 12) to the eight passions. It was a later innovation to cast the eight passions noted by the desert communities as the well known 7 deadly sins. St. John cites the first passion as gluttony. Gluttony he teaches must be conquered before any other of the passions can and should be faced. By fasting (and prayer) one can face and defeat the body’s craving for food. After you have mastered and attained the self-discipline to master that craving and only then can the other passions be taken up (which isn’t to say you should just give them free reign of course in the meantime … just that you might not expect to attain any manner of complete victory before then). The point here is that we live in a culture which is drenched with food as well as porn. In the US Immediate gratification of our urges is, well, expected. The only thing that the culture would say is wrong with gluttony in fact is that it results in one being overweight. St. John teaches us that we really won’t be successful in facing the second passion (sexual sin), even as a culture until we’ve mastered our gluttony.

Stem Cell Research "Unexplored"?

The Obama administration has finalized its rules regarding embryonic stem cell research.

The new rules, which go into effect on Tuesday, follow President Barack Obama’s March 9 executive order lifting a ban on embryonic stem cell research, an order that went into effect under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

They allow funding for research using human embryonic stem cells created by in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for reproductive purposes and no longer needed, in a departure from the Bush administration’s policy.

Not surprising.  We’ve known this was coming.  What I do find unbelievable is that the administration is still misrepresenting the debate, making it sound like Bush kept all this scientific knowledge away from us.

Bush barred federal funding from supporting work on new lines of stem cells derived from human embryos in 2001, allowing research only on a small number of embryonic stem cell lines that existed at the time.

Using human embryos for scientific research, which often involves their destruction, crossed a moral barrier and urged scientists to consider alternatives, the former president argued.

In reversing the ban, the Obama administration argued that the promise of medical breakthroughs through stem cell research could not go unexplored.

Unexplored?  Adult stem cells have been bringing us these breakthroughs for years, whaddya’ mean "unexplored"?  Adult stem cells have been coaxed into what amount to embryonic cells.  Unexplored? 

Obama wanted to restore science to its "rightful place".  I’d suggest he restore truth to it first.

Let’s not get in the way of God’s Plan

From Politico (HT: Holycoast), former Governor Mark Sanford writes,

Immediately after all this unfolded last week I had thought I would resign – as I believe in the military model of leadership and when trust of any form is broken one lays down the sword. A long list of close friends have suggested otherwise – that for God to really work in my life I shouldn’t be getting off so lightly. While it would be personally easier to exit stage left, their point has been that my larger sin was the sin of pride. They contended that in many instances I may well have held the right position on limited government, spending or taxes – but that if my spirit wasn’t right in the presentation of those ideas to people in the General Assembly, or elsewhere, I could elicit the response that I had at many times indeed gotten from other state leaders.

Be a man and show us how easy it is, Gov. Sanford.

Integrity and Office

Mr Westmoreland-White here offers an “explanation” for why the GOP reacts differently to scandal than the Democrats. One wonders if he knows any conservatives or republicans. He could, you know, ask one or two what their reason for caring about scandal,  unlike the Democrats who apparently don’t. The point is, I’m a conservative. The reason I’ve given and heard from other conservatives why personal scandal matters for politicians is the same every time. And it’s not the reason he gives, to whit:

It seems to me that the difference is the hypocrisy factor.  The Democratic Party in the U.S. has not tried to set itself up as the “morality police.”  Democrats sometimes campaign as “strong family people,” but this is seldom the center of the campaign.  They don’t claim to be morally superior.  They don’t try  to claim that voting for them is the only way to save the American family.  Republicans do make such claims–usually by implication, but sometimes in almost those very words.  Further, Republican politicians loudly call for Democratic politicians to resign if they get caught in sex scandals–and claim that voting for them is a way to restore the moral fabric of the nation.

This is uncharitable. It is not any reason that he, I suspect, or I have ever heard given. So that liberals and progressives get this straight, here is why the GOP (in office and out) call for Democrats caught in sex and other scandals to resign from public office.

Conservatives believe that private dishonest is reflective of personality. That a person who is dishonest in his personal affairs will also be dishonest in public and is not worthy of public trust. Cheating on a spouse affects a number of people, the wife, the children, and the social community in which the person resides. It is at the core, a breaking of trust. Conservatives believe that a person who is dishonest in these things will cannot be trusted in other things. That dishonesty of this sort disqualifies one from public office where great trust over money and power is given to a person for whom integrity is important.

The question then redounds to the liberal side. Why do they for their part feel that a person who lacks personal integrity is worthy of public office? I might suggest reasons why I might think that liberals like Mr Westmoreland-White might feel that personal integrity is unimportant to those in public office, but unlike him I fear that any reason I might sugggest would be uncharitable. So … I’ll await suggestions from him and from other liberal/progressive readers to answer that question defending the notion that personal integrity is unimportant.

A Remark Regarding Iran

Some 32 years ago, a little typewritten paper was published which took 20 years for the consequences of that document to unfold. The US stood silent then. We stood silent 20 years earlier when tanks rolled into Hungary. It looks like some would ask us still to remain silent, yet again.

Clint Eastwood directed White Hunter, Black Heart some years back. In it there is a scene in which Eastwood’s character enters into a fight against a man who was, if memory serves really deserved it. Eastwood’s character (John Wilson modeled after John Huston and his filming of the African Queen) is soundly beaten. His companion wonders afterward if he thought he had any chance of winning. The reply was no … but some things one has to make a stand against. To disregard the consequences.

In Iran today people are wondering what to make of the Iranian election. Was it a modern miracle of non-automated clerical assiduous labor. Was it voter fraud or not?

Lots of people have been following this far more closely than I. Lots of people are more expert than I at the Iranian cultural and political situation.

What I would entreat is that we don’t do the “pragmatic” thing, or the politically expedient thing. We (the US and the world that is not-Iran for that matter) should stand up for what is right. Too often we have stood silent in the face of horror and evil.

Lest this be misunderstood. I’m not advocating war. I’m not saying we should have gone to war then. But there is a vast difference between standing in silence (tacit approval) and war.

Let us not be silent. If a some Iraqis publish their chapter 9, let it be heard in Arabic, in Kurdish, in English, and indeed in all the languages of the modern world.

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