Ethics & Morality Archives

Friday Link Wrap-up

When you politicize health care, you get government-style efficiency. "NHS budget squeeze to blame for longer waiting times, say doctors."  And for those already in hospitals, doctors are having to prescribe water to make sure the elderly stay hydrated.

If the liberals are to be believed, poverty causes crime. And yet, in this tough economic time, the FBI reports a 5.5% drop in violent crime.

In economic news, Democrats are dead set against voting for any 2011 budget. There’s been a lot of hoopla surrounding the "repayment" of the General Motors loan from the auto bailout, except that it’s just a lot of smoke and mirrors. Indeed, GM has a sweetheart tax deal that is saving it $14 billion, not to mention another $14 billion is being lost in general on those bailouts.

The Obama economic "recovery" turned 2 years old in May. Upwards of a trillion dollars spent, for what? The number of people with jobs hasn’t changed, unemployment is far worse than they said it would be if we did nothing, median incomes are down, housing prices are down 10%, and I don’t need to tell you about gas prices. If George W. Bush were President, you just know he’d be personally blamed for this, but Obama gets a pass.

Canada, by the way, has been leading the US out of this mire by reducing debt and spending, even with a socialized medicine albatross around its neck.

Immigrants are turning to that "racist" Tea Party.

When we elected Obama, that was when "the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal", right? So why does he not get slammed for not signing the updated Kyoto Protocol? Bush got criticized for it, even though it was Clinton who originally didn’t sign it. Nah, couldn’t be the double-standard, liberal media.

When you make entitlements untouchable, you risk hurting those you purport to be concerned about because economic collapse hurts us all, including and especially the poor. The idea that it couldn’t happen here is severely myopic.

And finally, "smart" diplomacy". (Click for a larger version.)

Taking Care of Your Own House

This is what Republicans do, unlike Democrats who, allegedly, came in to Washington promising to go after the "culture of corruption".

Rep. Chris Lee of New York abruptly resigned Wednesday evening, hours after a gossip Web site reported that the married Republican had allegedly sent flirtatious e-mail messages and a shirtless photo of himself to a woman he met online.

A flirtatious e-mail is all that it took. Meanwhile, Charlie Rangel is still firmly ensconced in his seat. Yes, both sides have their corruption issues, but one clearly knows the meaning of "accountability".

One Less Reason for Embryonic Stem Cells

Skin cells turned directly into heart cells.

Scientists have successfully converted adult skin cells directly into beating heart cells efficiently without having to first go through the laborious process of generating embryonic-like stem cells.

The powerful general technology platform could lead to novel treatments for diseases and injuries involving cell loss or damage such as heart disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at the Scripps Research Institute.

In 2006, Japanese scientists reported that they could reprogram mouse skin cells to become pluripotent simply by inserting a set of four genes into the cells dubbed induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. But creating iPS cells itself is a time taking procedure.

Hence, lead author Sheng Ding and colleagues tweaked the process by completely bypassing the iPS stage and going directly from one type of mature cell (a skin cell) to another (a heart cell).

Amazing. This is almost the biological equivalent of alchemy.

Freedom Requires Responsibility and Morality

Hat tip James Taranto, "Students protest slurs in N.C. State’s Free Expression Tunnel".  The opening paragraph:

Raleigh, N.C. — Students have vowed to protest or block North Carolina State University’s Free Expression Tunnel until the university’s chancellor gives guarantees that no hate speech will be allowed there.

The easy snark would be to laugh at students wanting free speech who then go out and protest free speech.  But this brings up the necessity of responsibility and morality in our daily lives in order to properly enjoy those freedoms we have.

There are limits on free speech, of course.  When said speech could present a danger to people (and moreso to particular people like the President), it does have limits, and those limits are given the force of law.  The quintessential example is yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there isn’t one, and causing a stampede that could hurt or kill people.  As a society, we’ve also decided that the psychological issues related to pornography are not something children are ready to deal with, so we have limits there as well.

What these students, and many liberal folks, want to do, then, is elevate hurt feelings to the same level as psychological or physical harm and death as reasons to legislate against certain speech.  This severely degrades the adjective "free".  People get hurt feelings all the time.  This doesn’t mean we should be legislating against all those free expressions.

But my main point is this; why would someone yell "Fire!" in a crowded, non-burning theater?  I think I can get pretty much unanimous agreement that this would come from a lack of ethics & morals and a general lack of responsibility towards one’s fellow man.  Irrespective of which moral code you live by, I would imagine that someone living up perfectly to those morals would not do such a thing, and if we all lived up to those morals perfectly, there would be, indeed, no need for such a law.

So the fact that some people don’t live up to these morals, even common ones most Americans share, means that we’ll have irresponsible and immoral speech out there.  And the more moral the people are, the less of it we’d have.  This is why morality is inseparably tied up with government.  Good laws are not just good policy; they are (or ought to be) good morals and ethics.  John Adams noted that the foundation of our laws was written with this in mind:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Freedom requires a measure of responsibility and morality to be exercised properly. 

And I would note, along with Adams, that morality and religion are essentially inseparable.  Where atheism is the state "religion" (e.g. communist countries, for example), freedom is scarce.  Those here in the Western world who push for a shared ethic based solely on human thoughts and understanding would do well to look at history for a list of bad examples.  Humanity, with no outside influence or acknowledgement of something higher than itself, tends to descend to the occasion rather than rise to it.

Keep the faith.

Returning Sight to the Blind

Using umbilical cord stem cells.

Mrs Leach, 76, lost her sight in February last year and was diagnosed with giant cell arteritis, an inflammatory disease of blood vessels.

She was told by doctors in the UK that nothing could be done but she found out about Qingdao Chengyang People’s Hospital which offered an alternative.

Mrs Leach, from Hardwicke, near Gloucester, and the local community managed to raise the £16,000 to pay for the cost of the treatment.

This involved stem cell fluid taken from umbilical cords of new born babies being injected twice into her right eye and six times into her hands over a six week period.

Opponents of using embryonic stem cells have never had issues with umbilical cord stem cells.  And we have yet another example of a treatment that has none of the ethical, moral and physical issues associated with embryonic cells.

Are we getting the picture, yet?

Friday Link Wrap-up

A typical reason couples live together before getting married is that, supposedly, this will allow them to find out if they are compatible and thus ensure their marriage lasts longer.  But a new study says, nope, they are less likely to stay married.

Read my lips; no new taxes on those making $250,000 or less.  Well, we may soon add to the many exceptions since that promise was made, "unless you own a home".

The revolving door between the MSM and the Democratic Party.  Oh, that liberal media.

If the Gulf oil spill had happened on Bush’s watch, do you really think the environmental groups would be as virtually silent as they are now?  (Me neither.)

Remember how the UN climate change panel was supposed to be the result of boatloads of scientists in agreement?  Turns out the boat was a dingy.

And from the "Beware of Governments Bearing Gifts" department:

Churches and other faith-based organizations that receive government funds, beware. In an agreement that will be enforced by a federal court, government agencies in New York have agreed to monitor the Salvation Army to ensure that it doesn’t impose religion on the people its serves through its tax-funded social services.

The agreement just effects the Salvation Army’s social work in New York, but it’s more than a cautionary tale for religious groups in this era of government-backed faith-based initiatives. "With this settlement, government is watching out," co-counsel Deborah Karpatkin of the N.Y. Civil Liberties Union said in a statement. "It will not fund religious organizations to proselytize to recipients of government-funded social services."

The Salvation Army’s social services are intended to be an expression of faith in God and love for fellow man, but if they are prevented from doing the former while performing the latter, they’re being hobbled.  My suggestion has always been to avoid government money at all costs.

Why I Oppose the HCR Bill: Promises Made

I wrote last Friday about "3rd rails" in American politics; programs like Social Security and Medicare that, no matter how wasteful, politicians can’t substantially deal with.  The reason is that the government has made promises, people have reordered their lives around those promises, and thus any attempt to change the conditions of those promises is met with vehement opposition.

This, then, is related to the eternal life of government programs.  Part of the reason some of these programs live on is because the promises made and the responsibility to live up to them and honor them.  The problem is, we have to honor them even if doing so bankrupts us (or, more specifically, future generations).  We have to honor them even if the money could be spent more efficiently another way, getting the same job done only with better results.  We are already saddled with debt because of some of these huge programs, but are also saddled with current and future promised payments that we can’t afford now, and thus will have to tell our children to make good on.

Is that moral?

Some have said that it’s immoral not to take care of the elderly and infirmed, but by doing it on the backs of our children and grandchildren, is that really the more moral route?  With the health care reform bill, we are making promises that future generations must pay for.  And we are making promises that they may not be able to afford at all after this generation has already spent their inheritance on previous promises made.

And, as I noted previously, no matter what you hear from any politician on how much this or that program will cost, it will cost more.  History is strewn with so many examples of this that anyone believing these numbers is utterly ignorant, willfully or otherwise. 

Making promises binds us to honor them, which is a good thing.  But making promises with an inefficient bureaucracy binds us to a millstone that will continue to take us down with its unsustainable load, and we can’t afford that.

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!

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.  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?

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.

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