Category Archive 'Ethics'
18 Oct 2008

MSM Investigates Plumbers, Not Presidential Candidates

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The mainstream media treated Joe the Plumber having a tax lien as a matter of national interest. But, as Jim Lindgren points out at Volokh Conspiracy, obvious ethics violations by a certain former Illinois state legislator are considered unworthy of attention.

The Illinois Governmental Ethics Act (apparently last changed in 1995) provides:

(5 ILCS 420/2-110)

Sec. 2-110. Honoraria.

(a) No member of the General Assembly shall accept any honorarium.

(b) As used in this Section:

“Honorarium” means a payment of money to a member of the General Assembly for an appearance or speech.


But State Senator Obama reported accepting honoraria on his 2000 and 2002 tax returns:

2000: On his 2000 Schedule C-EZ, Barack reported that he received $16,500 as a “Foundation director/Educational speaker.”

2002: On his 2002 Schedule C, Barack reported $34,491 for “LEGAL SERVCES / SPEAKING FEES.”

12 May 2008

New Swiss Animal Rights Law

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The London Times reports, 4/26, on another ethical breakthrough in the home of the cuckoo clock.

Under a new Swiss law enshrining rights for animals, dog owners will require a qualification, anglers will take lessons in compassion and horses will go only in twos.

From guinea-pigs to budgerigars, any animal classified as a “social species” will be a victim of abuse if it does not cohabit, or at least have contact, with others of its own kind.

The new regulation stipulates that aquariums for pet fish should not be transparent on all sides and that owners must make sure that the natural cycle of day and night is maintained in terms of light. Goldfish are considered social animals, or Gruppentiere in German.

The creator of this animal Utopia is the Swiss federal parliament, the Bundesrat, which adopted a law this week extending to four legs the kind of rights usually reserved for two. The law, which comes into force from September 1, is particularly strict over dogs: prospective owners will have to pay for and complete a two-part course — a theory section on the needs and wishes of the animal, and a practice section, where students will be instructed in how to walk their dog and react to various situations that might arise during the process. The details of the courses are yet to be fixed, but they are likely to comprise about five theory lessons and at least five sessions “in the field”.

The law extends to unlikely regions of the animal kingdom.

Anglers will also be required to complete a course on catching fish humanely, with the Government citing studies indicating that fish can suffer too.

The regulations will affect farmers, who will no longer be allowed to tether horses, sheep and goats, nor keep pigs and cows in areas with hard floors.

The legislation even mentions the appropriate keeping of rhinoceroses, although it was not clear immediately how many, if any, were being kept as pets in Switzerland.

Also in Switzerland: Rights for Vegetables

04 May 2008

Plant Rights

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Happy new rights-holder in the Helvetic Republic

Wesley J. Smith, in the Weekly Standard, reports on Europe’s latest ethical breakthrough which extends liberal egalitarianism not merely beyond our own species, but beyond our own Kingdom.

You just knew it was coming: At the request of the Swiss government, an ethics panel has weighed in on the “dignity” of plants and opined that the arbitrary killing of flora is morally wrong. This is no hoax. The concept of what could be called “plant rights” is being seriously debated.

A few years ago the Swiss added to their national constitution a provision requiring “account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms.” No one knew exactly what it meant, so they asked the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out. The resulting report, “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,” is enough to short circuit the brain.

A “clear majority” of the panel adopted what it called a “biocentric” moral view, meaning that “living organisms should be considered morally for their own sake because they are alive.” Thus, the panel determined that we cannot claim “absolute ownership” over plants and, moreover, that “individual plants have an inherent worth.” This means that “we may not use them just as we please, even if the plant community is not in danger, or if our actions do not endanger the species, or if we are not acting arbitrarily.”

The committee offered this illustration: A farmer mows his field (apparently an acceptable action, perhaps because the hay is intended to feed the farmer’s herd–the report doesn’t say). But then, while walking home, he casually “decapitates” some wildflowers with his scythe. The panel decries this act as immoral, though its members can’t agree why. The report states, opaquely:

At this point it remains unclear whether this action is condemned because it expresses a particular moral stance of the farmer toward other organisms or because something bad is being done to the flowers themselves.

What is clear, however, is that Switzerland’s enshrining of “plant dignity” is a symptom of a cultural disease that has infected Western civilization, causing us to lose the ability to think critically and distinguish serious from frivolous ethical concerns. It also reflects the triumph of a radical anthropomorphism that views elements of the natural world as morally equivalent to people.

Why is this happening? Our accelerating rejection of the Judeo-Christian world view, which upholds the unique dignity and moral worth of human beings, is driving us crazy. Once we knocked our species off its pedestal, it was only logical that we would come to see fauna and flora as entitled to rights.

Complete article.

“Carrot Juice is Murder” 4:29 video

From Glenn Reynolds via Bird Dog.

17 Feb 2008

What Would You Do?

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Dafydd ap Hugh has devised an interesting little exercise in ethical theory, which –if nothing else– will give all our liberal friends another opportunity to feel morally superior.

You are a CIA station chief in an undisclosed, secret CIA prison in Poland (with Warsaw’s consent). A prisoner is brought to your location, picked up by the Germans in Afghanistan and transferred to U.S. custody six days ago. We’ll call him Mahmoud.

Mahmoud was not previously known to any intelligence agency before his capture (he was not the main target of the raid). He doesn’t appear to be a big fish. But when he was grabbed, he had a laptop with him, and he was in the process of trying to erase the hard drive. Most of the information is irretrievably gone, a little bit remains; and within that remaining little bit, your techies manage to extract references to a huge attack planned for somewhere on the American mainland. From the timeframe discussed, it appears to be one to three months away. You don’t know anything more than that.

You do not know for sure whether Mahmoud has more detailed information about the attack, but he evidently knew enough to try to erase the drive, even at risk of his own life. He has already been interrogated by the Marines and by CIA personnel where you are, but it’s clear he has more information that he’s holding back. The timeframe is tight enough that you must make a decision immediately, but not so tight that there would be no time to act on any information.

So what you know is this:

A major attack is planned somewhere in the continental United States;

Mahmoud may or may not be a major player, but he appears to know something significant about it;

However, he might not know enough to allow authorities to thwart the attack. But on the other hand, he might;

He would not talk under ordinary interrogation. You might be able to break him given time, but every week that passes makes it less likely his intelligence can be used to stop the attack.

We add one more point:

You already have solid evidence that he participated in some attacks on American troops that resulted in fatalities. So if we want to try him later at a military tribunal, we don’t need a confession to convict him; we already have ample forensic evidence.

You ask the DCI whether you can waterboard him; word comes from the White House via the DCI that you are authorized to waterboard Mahmoud, but you must use your own discretion whether you actually do it: You are the only one close enough to the scene to make that call. You get the impression that the president will stand behind you, whatever you decide… but of course, that only applies to this particular president. You don’t know who will be president in 2009.

So the question is, do you order Mahmoud to be waterboarded?

via Patterico and the News Junkie.

But, are we only allowed to water-board him?

25 Jun 2006

Ethics & the New York Times

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The same New York Times, which on Friday overruled the strenuous arguments of officials of the elected government and proceeded to publish detailed information about a vital program monitoring international transfers of currency;

Administration officials, however, asked The New York Times not to publish this article, saying that disclosure of the Swift program could jeopardize its effectiveness. They also enlisted several current and former officials, both Democrat and Republican, to vouch for its value.

Bill Keller, the newspaper’s executive editor, said: “We have listened closely to the administration’s arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration. We remain convinced that the administration’s extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest.”

the same New York Times, which today divulged details of “closely held secret” plans of possible reductions in US forces in Iraq, supplied by “American officials who agreed to discuss the details only on condition of anonymity;”

this same New York Times devoted a front page article in the Week in Review section to a prolonged meditation on the ethics of dining and the fate of the lobster (and a variety of other critters) destined for the dinner table.

Chin-stroking foodie journalist Michael Pollan got himself a Times magazine article, recyclable for his latest book, by purchasing a steer, and following its career on to feed lot and slaughterhouse. Frank Bruni, author of today’s “It Died For Us” lobster article, shares an anecdote of Mr. Pollan’s intended to allow Sunday Times’ readers to chuckle with a sense of superiority,

After the article appeared, Mr. Pollan received appeals from readers willing to pay large sums of money to buy and save the steer. One reader, he recalled, was a Hollywood producer who wanted to let the animal graze on his lawn in Beverly Hills, Calif.

“He kept coming after me,” Mr. Pollan said, describing a crusade that culminated in an offer of a meal at a famous emporium of porterhouses in Brooklyn. “He finally said, ‘I’m coming to New York, we’re going to have dinner at Peter Luger to discuss this.’ I’m like, ‘Excuse me, we’re going to have a steak dinner to discuss the rescue of this steer?’ How disconnected can we be?”

But we are all reading a newspaper guilty of a lot worse than popping a lobster into the cooking pot, or dining on beefsteak.

How disconnected is the Times?

How disconnected are all of us who buy it and read it, as it carries on its vicious partisan campaign against an elected administration, proceeding even to the point of repeatedly compromising National Security and endangering American lives?

21 May 2006

Professor Grayling Ponders War

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Those of us on the Right often contrast the patriotism of the British and American intelligentsia and media during WWII with the open treason and defeatism which have since become de rigeur fashion accessories for the same classes of society.

The joke is on us. British philosopher A.C Grayling turns the WWII patriotism meme on its head by systematically applying to Allied war policies in WWII the same sort of scrupulous ethicism, combined with Olympian neutrality of personal perspective, today’s treasonous clerks customarily apply to current events.

Allied bombing attacks on enemy civilian population centers (surprise! surprise!) are judged unnecessary and wrong. He’s right, of course, but (though I have not yet received my copy, and therefore not read his book) I doubt very seriously that he has fully addressed the reasons for the adoption by civilized countries of that lamentable war tactic, or done justice to just how far beyond the same kind of standards Germany and Japan by deliberate and conscious policy proceeded.

Mr. Grayling has, undoubtedly, also scanted the attention due to the interesting question of the ethics of publishing a monograph of this kind, addressing these kinds of issues and reaching these conclusions, in time of war, when his countrymen are fighting overseas.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height.

–Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1.

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